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Latest Vance County Jail Escape Raises Concerns

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HENDERSON, N.C. — Two Vance County Jail inmates are back behind bars after a brief taste of freedom, but their escape is raising new concerns about an old issue: is it time for a new Vance County jail?

Aaron Harris, 26, and Christopher Yarborough, 19, were being held on more than a dozen charges, including first-degree burglary, robbery and kidnapping, when investigators say the two men escaped from the jail.

Officers, however, did not know the men left until a head count the next day. Authorities received a tip and took the two men back into custody without incident.

An SBI investigation will determine how the two men escaped, but the facility has been plagued with an unwanted reputation for escapes.

Between 2000 and 2004, 19 inmates escaped from custody. In one case, inmates set a fire to divert the attention of jail guards; in another, five men overpowered two guards and climbed the fence to freedom. All of the inmates, however, were caught.

Jailers believe a big part of the problem is overcrowding being so bad that inmates, according to guards, are forced to sleep on the floor.

Despite the problems, county commissioners rejected plans to build a new jail. They blame the courts for taking too long to process the inmates through the justice system.

"As a county commissioner, we've got schools to deal with, we've got crime to deal with, -- we only have so many limited dollars to do things with," said County Commissioner Tommy Hester.

Vance County Sheriff Thomas Breedlove, however, says that without more money, the jail's reputation for escape will continue.

"I'm very concerned, and it's not just another escape, it's a major escape," Breedlove said. "It was sometime before we knew they were gone."


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