After Inmate Escape, Legal Issues, Sheriff's Office Adds Razor Wire to Jail Fences

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

After a recent inmate escape, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office is in the process of beefing up security at the Mesa County Jail, starting with the fence around the facility.

Back in September 40-year-old Shane Johnson made headlines across Western Colorado after he escaped from the Mesa County Jail. In light of that incident, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office says it has done an extensive review of jail policies and security.

"From that we had a lot of recommendations to the Sheriff about changing things," said Heather Benjamin, spokeswoman for the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

One of those things was the fence around the jail.

"We did not have razor wire around our detention facility previously," said Benjamin.

Crews are now working to put razor wire around the fence and other areas of the jail where inmates could to escape.

"In the exercise yard, the roof, the loading dock, and some other places," said Benjamin.

While officials say adding this security feature has been a top priority for the Sheriff's Office --

"With this recent example of Johnson's escape, it was very clear why we needed it and why we should've had it," said Benjamin.

-- This isn't the first time they've wanted to use it. Back in 1992, when the jail was built, the Sheriff's Office wanted to include razor wires on the fence. But because of issues over a city ordinance banning razor wire and other sharp materials on fences, they were never incorporated into the final plans.

"It's my understanding that what the city was trying to do at that time was to have them use different technology," said Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich.

Kadrich says the ordinance is in place to prevent unintended injuries to people and animals. But when the Sheriff's Office came to her after Johnson's escape and asked if it could install the razor wire, she says it was necessary to make an exception to the rule.

"In this case, it would protect the community more so than be a risk of harm," said Kadrich.

This was the first time since the jail was built that the Sheriff's Office asked the city to let it use razor wire fences.

Officials say while they're happy they were able to track Johnson down and take him back into custody, they can't assume that would happen again if someone else escaped. They say the razor wire fences should help make sure they never have to do that in the first place.

"We hope that all those changes would be for the better and would not allow a future escape," said Benjamin.

The Sheriff's Office says it is paying for the new razor wiring using leftover funds from last year's budget. The total cost is $57,000.


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