Commission gets ball rolling on correcting issues at county jail
by Ron Harris
Mar 22, 2014 | 2014 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Steven Aderholt, the District 4 representative on the Walker County Commission, addresses the audience during Friday morning’s emergency meeting, while commissioners, from left, Keith Davis and Dan Wright, commission chairman Billy Luster and commissioner Bobby Nunnelley look on. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
Steven Aderholt, the District 4 representative on the Walker County Commission, addresses the audience during Friday morning’s emergency meeting, while commissioners, from left, Keith Davis and Dan Wright, commission chairman Billy Luster and commissioner Bobby Nunnelley look on. Daily Mountain Eagle - Ron Harris
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Walker County Commissioners have voted to contract with a Harvest, Ala.-based company to evaluate the need for security upgrades at the Walker County Jail.

Cornerstone Institutional, LLC, will be paid $20,000 to come in and do a complete evaluation of all doors and locks at the jail.

Commissioners unanimously voted to hire Cornerstone following a lengthy discussion surrounding security concerns at an emergency meeting Friday morning.

It follows an incident Wednesday night where two inmates escaped the jail by picking the lock on an exterior door and walking outside the facility.

The inmates were back in custody less than five minutes later. They were captured by jail personnel outside the main building but still inside security fencing that surrounds the complex.

Both were being held on drug-related crimes.

“This is not a situation we got in overnight. We didn’t wake up yesterday with the locks not working at the jail,” commission chairman Billy Luster said following the meeting. “We just needed the path where we needed to be to secure the county jail for the safety of the citizens of the county and the people who work there.”

Luster said the commission has worked with Cornerstone before and feels confident in the company’s ability to find a solution to safety concerns at the jail.

“We’ve done business with them before, and the sheriff has worked with them for many, many years,” he said. “They are a very reputable company.”

County jail administrator Trent McCluskey, who sparred with commissioners in recent meetings over the need for security upgrades at the jail, said he’s happy that a solution to the problem has been worked out.

“I’m happy that this has been aired out and that there’s an understanding now that we’re going to work together, and it’s not going to just be paperwork back and forth,” McCluskey said. “I’m very happy that there’s a spirit of ‘let’s get the job done.’”

Sheriff John Mark Tirey said following the meeting he’s satisfied that work will finally be done to make the county jail a more secure facility.

“I feel much better now,” Tirey said. “We’ve had this security issue for a while, and I’m proud that [commissioners] are acting on it.”

Tirey said Cornerstone has always worked well with the county.

“We’ve done business with them before, and they’ve been very reputable in our past dealings with them,” he said. “I think they will shoot straight with us as to what needs to be done.”

District 1 commissioner Keith Davis, who drew applause during the meeting when he said the finger-pointing should stop in order to solve the problems at the jail, said he, too, is happy with the outcome of Friday’s meeting.

“This just needs to be fixed,” Davis said. “We’ve got to quit pointing fingers at who’s supposed to take care of what. If things need to be fixed to make the jail safer, let’s just get them fixed. We can’t have prisoners making it to the outside yard. Thankfully, the jailers on duty kept them from making it outside the fencing.

“We could have stayed in here for hours talking about who needs to do what,” he added, “but the bottom line is, we just need to fix it. Let’s keep the public safe and the workers safe at the Walker County Jail.”

Cornerstone’s assessment of how to fix the security issues at the jail is expected to begin early next week. Once completed, a report will be made to the commission on specific issues that need work.

In the meantime, Davis said extra security measures will be taken at the jail.

“This is nothing we enjoy having to deal with,” Luster said, “and it’s nothing the sheriff, I’m sure, enjoys dealing with. But I know the citizens are very concerned, and I don’t blame them. We’re thrilled at where we are today and the progress that we’ve made. I’m just ashamed it took so much time and effort to get to this point.”

“This is really important. The county jail, of all places, should be a secure facility,” McCluskey said.