Lax fence suspected in escape

A loose fence was Gerry Haynes' likely way of escape from the Charles B. Webster Detention Center on Sunday.

 

Sheriff Ronnie Strength believes Haynes might have been working on loosening the fence gradually. The security fence for the recreation yard was moved inward about 10 months ago to make room for new buildings on the property.

"When the fence was moved in, the bottom, right-hand corner of the fence was not as secure as it should have been," the sheriff said. "Over a period of time he was able to work the fence loose and push it far enough so he could get out."

Haynes, 32, had been at the detention center since June 2 on charges of burglary and felony theft by receiving stolen property, according to jail records.

He was one of two suspects in a string of four burglaries across Augusta and North Augusta in April and May, according to incident reports.

The construction is part of a long-range plan to move all inmates from the Richmond County jail on Walton Way to the detention center on Phinizy Road.

The sheriff estimated that Haynes was gone for less than an hour before staff discovered him missing about 3 p.m. Sunday.

"At that point the jail was locked down," he said.

Investigators received a lot of tips Sunday, according to Strength, including one from a man who knew Haynes. The man told investigators Haynes had been spotted near Martin Luther King Boulevard and 12th Street.

After officers tracked the escapee down in the area about 12:30 a.m. Monday, "it was a short chase," he said.

Haynes fled on foot and bicycle before being caught, the sheriff said.

A charge of escape has been added to Haynes' previous charges.

Strength said he has already met with staff to discuss ways to enforce extra security during construction. Crews have also begun securing the damaged fence.

"This is a very secure facility," he said, "but during construction a lot of walls are moved and fences are moved, so we have to take special precautions."

The sheriff would not detail what precautions the jail will be taking "for security purposes."

Currently, there is no target date for the end of construction at the Phinizy Road location, which will add more pods for incoming prisoners from the Walton Way location.

After the first phase is completed, the detention center will be able to house 1,300 prisoners. Capacity will be added with each phase.

However, Strength said prisoners will not be transferred until all construction is completed and the building has been put back together securely.

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