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New locks coming to Lerdo jail after increase in inmates breaking out of cells

KBAK/KBFX photo, file

The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved funding for new cell door locks at the Lerdo Pre-Trial jail.

This comes after the Sheriff's Office requested an emergency project to replace the locks. The county will be paying more than $1.7 million for the replacements.

In a letter to the board, Sheriff Donny Youngblood said since October 2017 security and maintenance staff began noticing an increase in cell door locks needing repair at the facility. Inmates have been breaking out of their cells, and Youngblood wrote they could "easily defeat" the locks.

There are 448 minimum-security cell door locks at the Pre-Trial jail. Youngblood wrote between October 2017 and the first week of February 2018 more than half of the cell door locks needed to be repaired or replaced.

He wrote since November 2017 and February 2018 that there have been 112 incidents that involved either a single inmate or a group of inmates opening cell doors.

KCSO said there have been five incidents where inmate assaults have occurred because of failing cell door locks and numerous assaults.

Back in February, there was a big riot. Dozens of inmates were able to get out of their cells. Inmates fought each other and several were sent to the hospital with injuries. No guards were hurt.

Kern County Chief Deputy Tyson Davis said the current locks are running on 30-year-old technology and are minimum security.

"Our maintenance staff has been checking the locks daily, and they're repairing and replacing one to two locks a day," Davis said.

He said inmates are learning how to break the locks, and then they are sharing that information around the jail.

Davis said the new locks will be much bigger and robust. He said they are for maximum security.

"They fit on the exterior of the door inside a steel box. The box is designed for zero tolerance, so it can't be manipulated," he said.

CML Security is the contracted vendor for the lock replacement.

Now that KCSO has the money, Davis said they are in the process of ordering the locks.

He said the manufacturer can only make 10 locks per week, and it will take at least seven months to finish replacing them.

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