Unicoi County inmate escapes in seconds during jail security demo

ERWIN, TN (WJHL) - The Unicoi County Sheriff's Department is saying enough is enough when it comes to fencing around their women's jail.

Sheriff Mike Hensley told us he's been pleading to the county commission for years, saying they need to fill gaps in the fence and make them taller.

News Channel 11 found out that the sheriff's office actually made a video to show how easy it is for an inmate to make a getaway and it took just seconds.

Eddie Bolton lives just feet away from the jail, he says the neighborhood is quiet and safe.

"I feel secure, I like it, there's really not a lot that goes on," Bolton said.

His home is nestled just feet away from the sheriff's department and their women's jail. Around 30 inmates call the jail home. Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said it is not secure.

Chief Deputy Frank Rogers said the jail is not secure.

"There's places where our perimeter fence doesn't even meet, a person can just walk through," Rogers said.

The sheriff's department wants a gap filled, the fences raised to 10 feet with razor wire all around, with the impound lot in the back also closed in.

"Barbed wire is for livestock, the fence down here is 5 feet if that," Rogers said.

They even organized an experiment with a real inmate to see just how easy it was for her to make a clean getaway.

"We bring an inmate out here and we say, see if you can get out here and right out she comes," Rogers said. He added that she was able to go right under the fence and right over it, easily.

Rogers said an inmate escaped just a few years ago and they don't want it to happen again.

"There is an ever-present danger to the community here," Rogers said.

While Bolton feels safe, he says sheriff knows best.

"It would just make it even safer even though it's safe already," Bolton said.

Rogers said the sheriff has expressed concerns specifically to commission chairwoman Marie Rice and he doesn't think she is taking the issue seriously. He also said the 911 department has already agreed to pay for half of the project.

Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch tells us that he wants the sheriff's office to be patient and that he feels the commission has the intent to improve fencing at the sheriff's office within the next few months.

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