Sheriff: Prison where inmate escaped has serious security issues


Posted on July 8, 2014 at 1:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 8 at 5:13 PM

Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

AMITE, La. -- The Tangipahoa man who broke out of jail Sunday in Amite is back behind bars, but the sheriff admits the facility has very serious security issues.

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said it was the first time in his decade on the job that an inmate chopped through a cell wall and escaped.

Murder suspect Verdelle Moore, 20, was on the loose for 15 hours before being captured in a home in Osyka.

A newly released inmate saw it all.

"They broke the locker lid off of the locker and beat the bricks out between the windows. And one of the guys got out and another one got out and the other one couldn't get out. He was too big. He was too fat for the hole, but one of them got over the fence and then the other one couldn't get over the fence, so he went back and tried to help him and couldn't get him, so he jumped over the fence and left," said Jerry Shuckhart, who said he was released on stolen property and drug charges after telling his story to authorities.

He said Moore was able to get over the barbed wire fence with a blanket. Moore was still cut up.

When asked how easy it was to break out, Shuckhart responded, "Very easy."

"This is a construction defect where the materials that were called for to be put in place some 30 years ago simply were not, by some type of oversight. If this particular area had been fortified with the rebar that was called for, very, very confident this escape couldn't have happened," the Tangipahoa sheriff said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

Edwards said Moore is now in maximum security. The hole is fortified with welded metal and the hundreds of metal locker lids, like the one used as a pick, will soon be replaced.

A year ago the sheriff went to the residents of Tangipahoa asking for higher taxes to fix up a jail he says is antiquated. A majority of the voters said 'no.'

A new jail would have direct supervision, rather than the current indirect supervision. The guard on duty during the escape had eight pods and 132 inmates to watch, without a direct line of site for all areas, at all times.

"We run at capacity and over capacity every single day. We educated the voters on this last fall. The Tangipahoa government called for a tax to build a new jail. Certainly nothing has changed for the better. There is no question that we need additional space. We need a newer facility. We have serious infrastructure problems," Edwards said.

Edwards said inmates made loud noises to cover the sound of hammering through the concrete wall. A number of people will now be charged with helping Moore escape.

The parish is checking for other structural problems that could make an escape easy.