Security upgrades at Grainger Co. jail could cost $150,000

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RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Lights, speakers and smoke alarms are damaged regularly - Grainger County Mayor Mark Hipsher said that type of vandalism inside the jail is common.

"Prisoners pretty much roam free inside the jail at times because the locks on the cell doors were torn up," said Hipsher.

He said it's been going on for three years. But he was surpised when three inmates managed to escape.

"We thought that they were secure inside - that they could get out inside the jail common area, but we didn't think anyone could escape from the jail," said Hipsher.

Brick walls surround the rec yards at the jail. The yards are covered by bolted down screens. The Sheriff's Office said the escapees were able to loosen the bolts, push up the screen and climb out. But that's changing - workers were busy welding the bolts Friday.

"They'll have to have a cut torch to get back out the next time," said Rickey Dalton.

New, tamper-proof locks will be installed, along with cameras in the rec yards and a new computer system to monitor everything.

After the escapes, three guards were fired. New ones will be hired, and that process is changing.

"The Sheriff basically hired the guards before and just sent them in there to work. Probably one of the older guards told them what their duties was and they just went to work. But there needs to be some process of training implemented for guards in the future," said Hipsher.

Guards will also have to pass background checks - something never required before.

Hipsher estimated the changes will cost $150,000. He said the county doesn't have the money on hand, so it will have to take a loan out.

Authorities captured Dennis Rucker and Shane Farrow in Pigeon Forge. They're still looking for David Valentine.

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