Human error cited in recent Tulsa County jail escapes

Tuesday, November 1st 2005, 10:03 am
By: News On 6

A series of jail breaks in Tulsa County has officials concerned. Five inmates have escaped from custody since July 1st, four of them right out the doors of the Tulsa County jail.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says the latest break was Monday morning when an inmate broke out his handcuffs while on the way to Tulsa County court. He was captured right away, but besides him, there were four that managed to escape - and more than two dozen more released earlier than they should have been.

The first few months of having the Tulsa County jail under the management of the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office has been anything but trouble free.

It's no easy job handling 1,350 inmates, with 70 to 80 coming and going each day, but having 5 get loose in four months is not the standard the sheriff wanted to set. Undersheriff Brian Edwards: "Obviously we're after taking over the jail July first, to have this many incidents, we're not pleased with that."

Bryan Switzer was one of the inmates who escaped. He was sent by mistake to take out the trash. He ran off and was captured in Sand Springs 8 hours later after a manhunt which left him injured. Edwards: “The first inmate fled taking out the trash and the second one manipulated the doors to get out and fled.”

And this past weekend, two inmates - Kenneth Mitchell and Quincy Wilson got out while taking part in a jail work detail. Mitchell was caught just blocks away - Wilson was captured in Joplin.

The Undersheriff is investigating, but says in four of the 5 escapes it appears human error was the problem. He's promising some results from that investigation by the end of the week.

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office says it's committed to the practice of having inmates work at the jail. That practice allows trustees to literally walk in and out of the doors with supervision, but the sheriff's office says it's taking new steps to make sure trustees are screened better and employees are more thoroughly trained on procedures that are already in place.

As for the early releases, Chief Deputy Tim Albin, who oversees the jail, told the News on 6 Tuesday, he personally takes responsibility for 20 of those, because he says he misread the paperwork on a Friday for releases set for the next week. The Sheriff's office says it's put another check in place to make sure that doesn't happen again.