Four Inmates Escape Unnoticed From Louisiana Jail Through 8-Inch Gap

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Four men were able to escape from Tangipahoa Parish Jail in Louisiana this weekend because of an eight-inch gap and a lack of oversight at the facility, the authorities said. Two of the men were still at large as of Monday night, while the other two had been found hiding in a dumpster, the police said.

Jimmy Travis, the chief of operations for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s office, blamed structural issues and a lack of oversight by the jail staff in a news conference on Monday.

The four men escaped after they evaded correction officers during recreation time in the yard and hid out until darkness, according to a Facebook statement from the Tangipahoa Parish sheriff, Daniel Edwards.

The men escaped in pairs, Mr. Travis said. The first two — Avery Guidry, 19, and Travon Johnson, 21 — left the jail on Saturday by evading correctional officers and escaping through a narrow, eight-inch gap under a wall before scaling two fences after dark. On Sunday, two other inmates — Omarion Hookfin, 19, and Jamarcus Cyprian, 20 — copied that route for their escape.

The authorities were not aware that the men had escaped until a family member of one of the escapees called them on Sunday, saying that the men had tried to seek refuge at a relative’s house, Mr. Travis said. He attributed the delayed realization to understaffing and a lack of oversight.

“If proper head counts had been conducted we would have known about it immediately,” he said.

The staffing issues at the jail over the weekend are not unique for the state, which has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in the country. In 2022, Louisiana corrections officials told lawmakers that state prisons and juvenile detention facilities were understaffed because of low wages and poor conditions.

The Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday morning.

Mr. Guidry and Mr. Johnson were back in jail as of Monday after the authorities found them in a dumpster, Mr. Travis said. Mr. Hookfin and Mr. Cyprian were still at large, officials said.

Mr. Johnson, Mr. Hookfin and Mr. Guidry were in jail after their arrests in connection with a 2022 homicide. Mr. Cyprian was in jail on charges of armed robbery and weapon charges, the sheriff’s office said.

Mr. Travis said the wire in the yard had been weakened by corrosion, making it possible for people to break it open and create a small gap. Once the inmates got through the gap, they were able to go down a wall where there was another gap of about eight inches.

“You wouldn’t think that eight inches is a lot, but a 150-pound human being can get under it,” Mr. Travis said.

He added that he believed that all four inmates used the same route out of the correctional facility.

“We had a defect in the security barrier,” Mr. Travis told reporters. “We had another gap that should have been corrected.” And, he added, there was not enough razor wire. He also indicated that not all of the officers had received proper training.

“Sometimes in our jobs we become complacent until something like this happens,” Mr. Travis said. But, he added, “it’s a failure. We had a failure within.”



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