Switchblade prompts tighter security

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, December 20, 2018

The discovery of a weapon at Piedmont Regional Jail (PRJ) recently has led to the jail’s superintendent announcing new security measures to take place, estimated to take effect mid-January.

During the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority (PRJVA) meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Jim Davis said that a switchblade knife was found behind a soap dish in a shower at the jail this week.

“This really shook up a lot of people at the jail,” Davis said.

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He said come January, the jail is implementing tighter security, particularly for the jail’s employees. Davis said officers will be shaken down, or examined for weapons, each time they enter the jail. They will also be required to carry see-through bags and, except for personnel approved by the jail such as lieutenants, won’t be allowed to carry cellphones inside of the jail.

“You might hear some complaints, but I’m sorry, we’re going to lock it down,” Davis said. He said he has examined the jail’s security for a year, and said it has been “lacking.”

Davis said the jail will also purchase a new metal detector.

Davis said the jail currently does what he called “a full shake down,” meaning that quarterly, the jail is examined for potential weapons and other items.

Davis said the jail is locked down for a week each quarter and no visitors are allowed.

He said since he has been at the jail, it’s typically small items that are found, such as toothbrushes and commode brushes sharpened to points, and razors blades that have been pulled apart.

Davis said where the blade came from, or who it belonged to, is not yet known. He said the situation is under investigation.

“This could have been left by a worker,” Davis said. “We have so many workers in and out of there now.”

PRJVA member Edward Pennington asked if those entering the jail are shaken down, or logged for what they have brought with them when coming in and out of the building.

Davis said the jail does not currently have this measure.

“It takes a lot of time to do that,” Davis said. “But it may prevent this, too.”

PRJVA member Parker Wheeler said at federal prisons, those who enter those facilities are required to remove their shoes and belts.

“We may not go that far,” Davis said. “But we’re going to do a lot.”

He noted staffing as an issue, saying that personnel would need to be continually present to enforce those security measures.

“We’re looking at all of those pieces, but we’re going to change it,” Davis said about the jail’s security.