VAN ZANDT COUNTY (KYTX) - Local sheriffs tell CBS 19 that they are worried that faulty locks found inside the Van Zandt County Jail might be in other jails not only in the state but the country.
The plan to replace the locks is in place, but now security staff at other East Texas jails are inspecting their own locks very closely.
Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, Brandon Wood, says as of now, the manufacturer does not seem to have that lock model in any other Texas jails, but they are still taking more time to confirm that, and see about locks in other states.
There's a whole lot of relief for the Canton community, now that 116 Van Zandt County Jail inmates, some of them dangerous convicts, have been removed from 66 cells with faulty locks.
Sheriff Lindsey Ray says the inmates had been working for a long time to figure out the locks, which were installed in the Van Zandt County Jail in 2010 as part of a renovation project.
Brandon Wood says there are about three main manufacturers that make lock systems for jails in the state, but this company who made the flawed locks, was not one of them.
"The type of lock that was installed, although it is comparable according to the manufacturers specifications to locks that are typically seen in Texas County Jails, this was the first time we'd seen this manufacturer in the state," Wood says.
Wood says even though the company was new, the locks they made did meet state standards.
For security reasons, Sheriff Ray has asked us not to reveal that lock manufacturer's name. Keeping that information away from inmates could stop them from trying to manipulate similar locks.
The good news is, the locks with the faulty pieces seem to only be in one batch of one specific model. It doesn't look like the manufacturer has locks from that bad batch anywhere else.
"We do not believe that any of those locks are in any other county jails, however we have issued a technical assistance memorandum and notification to the sheriffs to conduct a walk through of their own facilities and determine if they have any of those locks," Wood says.
As every jail in Texas investigates its own locking system, the manufacturer in question is looking into any locks it has installed in other states.
Wood confirms that the van zandt county jail already has had its annual *state inspection this year.
We asked if they check locks in those inspections.
"We do check locks," Wood says. "The inspectors will walk through and make sure the locks are in good working order."
However, they don't check pieces within the lock to see if they can be broken into.
That's up to the manufacturer and the installer to see that they do have deadbolt locking mechanisms and that they cannot be manipulated," Wood says.
Since they were able to be manipulated and were clearly faulty, Sheriff Ray expects the manufacturer to reimburse the county for most of the fees being paid to out source his inmates to other jails. Otherwise, the big bill has to be paid with taxpayer dollars.
Sheriff Ray exclusively told CBS 19 Thursday that he unfortunately expects costs to rise higher than the initially $52,000 estimated to outsource inmates for two weeks. That amount doesn't include the transportation costs for transferring the inmates, which includes bus rentals, drivers, and gas.
Plus, it may take a little longer than expected for inmates to return to Van Zandt County Jail cells. Before they return, the state has to come inspect and improve the new lock system. Wood says that could only take a day, if the request for review is submitted quickly. If not, they will need to wait on the inspection request.
We also spoke today to other sheriffs like Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith, who says he is following yesterday's state mandate and is inspecting his jail's lock system right now. So far, he has not found any issues. He also says once the new jail is built, there will be similar lock inspections before inmates are allowed in.