This week's escape of an inmate from the Utah County Jail illustrates clearly the problems facing an overcrowded, inadequately staffed correctional facility, say sheriff's department officials.

William T. Leon, who was serving a short sentence for retail theft and was awaiting trial on an auto-theft charge, escaped Monday afternoon from the jail's outdoor recreation area. The escape, only the third from the jail's secured area during its 12-year history, would not have happened if the jail weren't understaffed, said Sheriff Dave Bateman.Usually, inmates are searched upon entering the recreation area and are supervised while there. On Monday, however, supervisory staff members were busy processing approximately 20 people arrested during early morning drug raids.

"We're short manpower and we're overcrowded in the jail," Sheriff Capt. Jerry Scott said. "We has no one to stay in the recreational area or to shake down inmates."

Monitoring of the recreation area continued via video monitors, "but there are blind spots on the camera," Scott said.

Apparently, Bateman said, Leon sneaked some tied-together sheets into the recreation area. The sheets were then tied to the chrome-steel basin of a nearby drinking fountain, which "was somehow dismantled without tools."

Bateman said the basin was used as a grappling hook and thrown over an adjacent wall and around a roof antenna. Leon then climbed to the roof and escaped.

He said the department's warrants-fugitive division is searching for Leon and investigating the escape. Leon, 20, of Provo, is a Caucasian with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 5-foot-9, weighs 210 pounds and has a Trojan head tattooed on his left chest.

Leon, who walked away from an inmate work crew during a previous jail sentence, is not considered dangerous.

Authorities later found Leon's jail-issue clothes on the roof and his shoes in a jail parking lot. "He apparently had some assistance from the outside," Bateman said.