The razor wire fence that Joshua Brian Whallon scaled to freedom was identified as a potential problem by an audit team reviewing security at the Beaver County Jail.
"I'll be right honest," said Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel. "It was an area I was very critical of."
In a rather forthcoming interview with the Deseret Morning News on Monday, Noel pledged to improve security at his jail.
"It comes down to dollars," he said. "They cut back on the way they constructed the outdoor recreational area. I wish they wouldn't have done it. I have to deal with that."
The old recreation yard at the jail has a cinder-block wall with concertina wire at the top, he said. The yard on the newly expanded facility, which was completed in January, has razor wire on top of a chain link fence.
"There's no way we would have ever had an escape in the old facility," Noel said.
The sheriff insists security inside the Beaver County Jail is excellent, with digital cameras and controlled doors. When he took office in January, Noel said he was concerned about the fence. A recent audit of security at county jails by the Utah Department of Corrections also raised concerns.
"They wanted double razor wire, maybe triple along the top of that," he said. "That's something I'm going to look at."
Then on Sunday, Whallon escaped.
Corrections officials said the 21-year-old convicted rapist and kidnapper was being called back into the jail when he told officers he left his shirt out in the rec yard.
"He walked back out in the yard and threw a towel over the wire, walked over a roof and jumped 20 feet to the ground," state corrections spokesman Jack Ford said Monday. "They watched him do it."
Noel said the escape was seen on security cameras, but no officer was in an observation room at the jail.
"Because I'm down manpower, that particular officer was doing other services," the sheriff said. "We were able to call in and say we have an escape in progress. It would have been better if I had an officer inside the observation room."
Corrections officials said the sheriff's response was quick. Whallon was captured hours later, hiding in some trees about 10 miles south of the jail.
Whallon is now back in the Utah State Prison, inside a maximum-security lockdown cell. The Beaver County Jail is also in lockdown while investigations into the escape are conducted.
"The sheriff was more than willing to jump on it and fix whatever needed to be fixed," Ford said.
Security costs money. Inmates cost money. The Utah Department of Corrections contracts with county jails to house state inmates because of money and bed space issues. Noel said he is able to house the inmates for 30 percent less than it costs the state prisons.
The Beaver County Jail houses the most state inmates, about 357 of them. Recently, the jail expanded to house all those inmates.
"They're paying us $42.30 per day and that's not cutting it anymore," Noel said. "That was set 10 years ago. It costs more money to house these guys. It costs more money for me to pay guards, to provide security. The state, the legislature and the governor need to do more."
Noel, whose father is a state lawmaker from southern Utah, said the legislature needs to increase funding for corrections. In turn, county facilities will also benefit if the cost to house inmates is increased."It goes toward more security, better personnel, gates, those things," the sheriff said. "Right now, I'm six officers down. It's difficult for me to attract a job pool of guards for 12 bucks an hour."
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