Cell locks failed during riot at Lerdo Jail


Cell locks failed during a riot last week at the Lerdo Pre-Trial Facility north of Bakersfield.

Dozens of inmates fought each other, and four were sent to the hospital with injuries. No guards were hurt.

The labor union representing the guards, Kern County Detention Officers Association, told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that low staffing also contributed to the problem.

Tyson Davis, the chief deputy that oversees detention facilities, confirmed the union's concerns, noting that inmates did escape some of the cells in the lower-security area of the facility during the fight.

The locks, Davis said, are old, and inmates have begun to tamper with them, with some success.

Crews do conduct regular inspections and fix locks that have been vandalized, but replacing all of the problem locks will likely cost more than $1 million, Davis said.

The Lerdo Jail expansion project, known as the Kern County Justice Facility, is nearly complete and will begin housing inmates no later than May. Davis said prison officials will vacate the cells at Lerdo with the problem locks first, transferring those inmates into the newer facility while the older cells are retrofitted with newer locks."

"What we're looking at is getting (a lock) that's larger, like a 5-inch bolt that's on the exterior of the cell door," Davis said. "The current locks are built into the door and they're accessible from inside the cell."

The sheriff department has not yet secured the funding for the locks.

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