(WBIR-Kingston) Inmates at Roane County Jail have been slowly working on an escape plan that could have been successful. Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton said inmates have been breaking the interior fence, creating a decent sized hole.
"The wiring itself has been pulled away and clipped. I don't know what they used to clip it with, but it's easy to manipulate back and forth, just by using your hand," said Stockton.
The inmates were allowed outside, in a fenced-in area, for physical exercise three times a week. The sheriff said three or four inmates would line up, shoulder to shoulder, and block the security cameras while one inmate worked on breaking the fence.
"It shields them from being spotted," said Stockton. "And by the time we get an officer out there, they've already done their work, they're already done and kind of out mingling amongst themselves. There are actually 32 people out here at once."
Stockton said they would work in three or four minute increments, but they could have escaped in one day's time outside.
"Once you get started with it and let it break, it'll come out. In less than an hour, they'd be out. And once you get one piece out, it'll all fall. It's a domino effect," described Stockton.
A secondary fence sits about 20 feet from the hole in the inner fence, but the wiring on the exterior fence is even easier to manipulate.
"The wire is easier to twist and turn. And they could also climb under the fence right here," said Stockton. "And we have a lot of athletic inmates who could scale the fence easily. Then use the barb wire to scale down the other side, because the razor is on the inside."
Stockton said the Roane County Commission is working on a permanent fix, but it could cost up to $20,000.
"We're going to make some upgrades with a higher gauge wire and maybe a mesh screening. And we're going to bring in an architect to access the situation, also," said Stockton.
Until the fence is fixed, inmates cannot go outside. Stockton said that can create tension since the jail is already facing overcrowding issues.
"In the summer months, they like to get out and enjoy the sunshine," said Stockton. "It helps with tension and conflict. And it helps the officers, since it lowers their stress."
In the past, Stockton said inmates had almost gotten through a wedge between a door to the fence and the fence wiring until workers welded a solution.
Stockton said the inmates could also use pieces of the broken fence as a weapon, sharpening the ends on the concrete or jail floor.
Officials have not been able to pinpoint which inmates were responsible.