Grainger County jail locked down for search

Grainger County jail locked down for search

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The Blount County Sheriff's Office mobile unit was seen outside the jail. The Blount County Sheriff's Office mobile unit was seen outside the jail.

6 News Reporter

RUTLEDGE (WATE) - The Grainger County Justice Center was put on lockdown Tuesday afternoon for a complete search of the facility.

"It's on lockdown, no one in, no one out without authorization, but it is secure," Sheriff Scott Layel said after deputies spent hours searching and securing the jail.

District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn says during the raid, officials discovered contraband including cellphones and cigarettes.

"The purpose here today is to make sure the jail is secure, and to account for all the prisoners that are supposed to be in jail," said Dunn.

The Blount County Sheriff's Office is assisting with the raid because Dunn says Grainger County did not have sufficient personnel. Dunn says they have used Blount County's resources for similar purposes in the past.

He would not say whether a similar escape had happened before.

The lockdown came only a few days after the escape of three inmates Friday night.

General Dunn joined Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher and Chief Deputy Charles Biddle to explain the jail is safe.

"Everything we're doing is to ensure the public, the citizens of Grainger County, that they are not in harms way," explained Dunn.

Sheriff Scott Layel was not present in the afternoon while the raid was going on. He said he was searching for the missing inmates.

"I've been aware, I've been on top of it, I've been in Kentucky, I've been in Virginia, and Hawkins County today," said Layel.

The DA's office is also investigating why it took so long to discover the inmates were gone and how the cutter used in the escape got into the prison.

Chief Deputy Biddle has taken over daily operations during Sheriff Layel's absence due to health problems He said he learned of the inmate's escape on Saturday, almost 24 hours after it happened.

"[The inmates] are supposed to be checked every hour, a head count, a physical head count. That's part of our policy and procedure. But evidently that wasn't being followed. He couldn't answer why it too so long to be notified.

Sheriff Layel says he found out on Sunday.

"It was a breach in the officers who were working. They are supposed to do a head count almost every hour. I realize housing 120 inmates with three jailers is tough to do, but they've got to make a better effort," said Layel.

6 News asked if he felt any of the responsibility fell on him or Biddle.

"I don't see how it could, that's up to there jailers, we have a lot of other things going on," Sheriff Layel said.

Two employees have been fired due to negligence, Michael Sane and Cody Wolfe, but it is unclear if they played a role in the escape.

"That is part of the investigation but if they did charges would be filed," said Dunn.

Chief Biddle says others could be held responsible.

"I'm sure there probably will be," he said.

The inmates escaped by cutting through the mesh of the ceiling of the rec yard. Sheriff Layel says he plans to make a request to install a Plexiglas ceiling over it so nothing similar can happen again.

In the meantime, they have increased the guards and placed additional deputies inside and outside the jail.

The three escaped inmates are still on the run.

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