News 12 Investigates: Problems remain at Grovetown jail

Two Grovetown inmates

Grovetown Dept. Of Public Safety (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 O'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014

GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW) -- Two Grovetown inmates' escape from jail led the mayor to suspend its top cop and now we know why.

"You can see how close we actually are from my bedroom window," said Gwen Marshall who lives in Grovetown.

For her, its both comforting and terrifying. She's close to safety but more than a month ago, she was closer to danger.

"Just bought a new house right behind the police department," she said.

A week later, two inmates in this Grovetown Jail escaped. That night, the Marshall's yard was lit up with flash lights and police officers on a hunt.

"Somebody escapes, this may be the first house they run to," she said.

They eventually caught the guys, but more than a month later, she still wants to know why it happened in the first place.

"Where was the boss, the jailer, the security?" asked Marshall.

We had some questions too, so we filed an open records request. What we got opens the door on what could be going on behind closed doors.

The City of Grovetown's HR Manager states in the report, "Incidents like these indicate that no one is providing supervision,"

On June 7, the report says a jailer opened doors in the jail area because it was too hot. It wasn't reported though. On July 1, they say it happened again but this time a supervisor spoke up. That employee was given a 10-day suspension and put on probation.

Also the file, a written statement from an inmate who said "an employee had left the yard door open." That same inmate was one of the two that escaped on July 25.

It also states that Chief Owens failed to even get a locksmith to come check the door used in that escape.

"It's not a comfortable feeling for anyone, whether you live next door to it or 25 miles away," Marshall said.

But according to the file, there isn't a list of policies and procedures posted in the jail. The ones officials we were able to dig up, date back to 1994.

After the escape, officials say Chief Owens even stopped an investigator from getting warrants for the inmates. That delay, the report says gave the "escapees quite a bit of time to flee the area."

All this raises a lot of questions but leaves neighbors like Marshall with one simple one. "Could this happen again?"

"Living anywhere, you still need to have faith in your community police department, you know that they're doing the right thing," she said.

We spoke to Mayor James and he tells me they're in the process of revamping all of the policies and procedures for the jail.


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