OPINION | EDITORIAL: Jailers should know if a prisoner escapes

People have been escaping from prison as long as there have been prisons. It's rare, for sure, and likely a lot more rare nowadays with the technology available, but indeed, people who are supposed to be locked up sometimes get loose.

So while it was troubling to hear that two men, both dangerous, had escaped from the Jefferson County jail, that news more or less comes with the territory of confining people against their will.

What was exasperating, however, was the lack of detail on the men's condition of not being confined any longer. A spokesman for the Sheriff's office, which runs the jail, said that, based on a recent head count, officials determined that the two men had escaped within the past 48 hours.

But they weren't sure.

"Right now, we can't say specifically," stated the spokesman, who added that the 48-hour determination was "really just a guess."

That is not reassuring in the least. Could they have been gone for 72 hours? A week? Have they had time to get to Altheimer or maybe to Tijuana?

What the Sheriff's office didn't know is two-pronged. The jail is in downtown Pine Bluff. A few blocks away, residential neighborhoods pick up where businesses and offices leave off. Really, the entire city is walkable in a few hours. So everyone in town was at some risk of bumping into these guys, but that risk had been on-going for an undetermined period of time and was unbeknownst to the citizenry.

The other prong is the answer to the question: what in the world is going on down there? Is that any way to run a jail? Are head counts not the gold standard for making sure the people who are supposed to be locked up are locked up?

It is incumbent on Sheriff Lafayette Woods Jr., who oversees the jail operation, to get to the bottom of what happened and to make those details known. Every citizen in the area has a stake in what should be the safe and secure operation of the jail. Finding out how the facility became something far less is information we all should have. As well, the sheriff must take appropriate action. It is one thing to have someone slip away. It is entirely another not to know when that happened.

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