Union County Jail overcrowding contributed to 5 inmates' escape, officials say

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Overnight Monday, the Union County Sheriff’s Office reported that five women had escaped from the Union County Jail and that overcrowding at the facility was partially to blame.

The five female inmates, who made their escape around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, have since been recaptured and charged. Authorities said the inmates had taken advantage of a security door that had failed to lock.

“The escape happened partly due to overcrowding in the jail where females are being housed in the hallway outside of the facility housing units,” UCSO’s social media post stated. “A security door that leads directly to the outside of the jail failed to lock after being closed. All inmates were back in custody an hour and sixteen minutes after the escape.”

A Union County commissioner and Jail Committee chair affirmed that overcrowding at the facility was a factor and the county is working with the state. A new jail facility is in the works.

“Well we’ve known that overcrowding has been a problem and we’ve been working diligently with the state, TCI (Tennessee Corrections Institute) to eradicate that problem,” Sidney Jessee, Union County commissioner and chair of the Jail Committee, said in a phone interview with WATE 6 On Your Side. “And we are making measurable progress with the state, we are currently on a plan of action with the state to keep our jail certified. And we are making provisions to get this corrected.”

Officials in Union County say there are plans to build a new facility and they are currently looking at new property in the county; however, they also said they are waiting to get their needs assessment back to figure out exactly how many beds the new jail facility will need.

A working timeline for the new jail facility’s development has not been announced.

The TCI is holding its Jail Issues & FTO Conference on Sept. 25-28 at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg.

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