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Vance Sheriff Blames Lack of Funds on Lax Security

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HENDERSON — Vance County's sheriff saysSaturday's jail breakwould not have happened if his staff were better trained and better paid.

Seven inmates walked away from the Vance County Jail Saturday night. Four men were caught, but three are still missing.

It is the second escape at the jail in less than two weeks.

On May 8, an accused murderer escaped and traveled all the way to New York before being recaptured.

Sheriff Thomas Breedlove says he wants more money to recruit and keep experienced guards. County officials say the sheriff may have to do the best he can with what he has.

"If we had people with more experience, they would have never been turned loose," says Breedlove.

The sheriff says inexperienced jail guards panicked during the escape. Inmates in two cells distracted guards by setting mattresses on fire. The seven men escaped while guards rushed inmates away from the smoke and flames.

Breedlove is asking for more money so he can keep experienced guards on staff. County Commission chairman Danny Wright says pay raises may not be possible.

"We give the sheriff all the money that I think we can afford each year to run his department. He does as good a job with it as he can. We have to set some tough priorities with the funds we do have available," he says.

People living near the jail are not as worried about the county budget as they are about the eight inmates who have escaped this month.

Six guards were on duty Saturday night. Breedlove say he needs seven guards to supervise his 160 inmates. If he does not get more guards, he may have to move some inmates out.

"We'll have to take some type of action, maybe reduce the population of the jail or close a portion of down," says Breedlove.

The pay rate for jailers in Vance County was increased two years ago, but Breedlove says the rate has not kept up with other counties which can afford to pay more.

Wright says the county may have to look at increasing its training program if money is not available for raises. The commission is expected to make a decision regarding funding in June.

A state inspector is expected to issue recommendations in a few days about security at the jail.

Meanwhile, the SBI is investigating the May 8 jail break, and the possibility the guards may have assisted in the escape of Nathaniel Lewis.


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