WHITE CLOUD, Mich. (WOOD) — An escape attempt by three federal inmates has already led to changes in security at the Newaygo County Jail, the sheriff said Friday.
Newaygo County Sheriff Bob Mendham said he was surprised his jail didn’t catch onto the attempt for three weeks.
“It’s very surprising, actually, and it was kind of an eye-opener, honestly,” the sheriff said. “You learn from your mistakes and this was something that we kind of realized maybe we can do something a little better here.”
The three inmates — Timothy Mark Calicutt, Jaron Howard Morgan and Victor Lamont Garcia — are accused of starting their escape attempt in late September, getting up into the ceiling above their shared cell.
They spent parts of the next three weeks or so crawling through heating and cooling ducts.
A federal grand jury indicted them earlier this week on charges of conspiracy to escape from custody and one count of attempted escape from custody and aiding and abetting.
Two were in the jail on federal drug cases; one on a weapons charge.
The jail houses about 140 prisoners a day for the federal government.
The inmates used tools fashioned from wood, metal, a pipe and other items to cut and damage ductwork, a brick wall and a plywood wall while in the space above the cell’s ceiling. They hid their work by holding up a blanket in view of the cell’s surveillance camera.
The sheriff said they never got close to escaping.
“They were able to get up in there, but it led them nowhere,” he said. “It was interesting. They ran into rebar and cement everywhere they went. It was kind of futile, but, nevertheless, it occurred.”
A guard caught on in late October.
“One of our officers was just very observant, thought something wasn’t right, was walking around, heard some things that he just shouldn’t be hearing, and investigated from there,” the sheriff said.
He said the escape attempt revealed some security flaws.
“We’ve added some different cameras within the cells,” he said. “We had noticed the night vision on the previous cameras wasn’t as good as we had hoped it would be, so we’ve improved those cameras. We also changed the placement of a couple of them.”
And, guards, he said, are paying closer attention when inspecting cells.
“To actually go over and knock on windows and knock on portions of the ceiling or walls, things like that, yeah, we’re doing that now,” he said.