Inmate threat leads to shakedown at Jennings County Jail - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Inmate threat leads to shakedown at Jennings County Jail

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A threat by an inmate led to a shakedown at the Jennings County Jail in southern Indiana.

WDRB's Lawrence Smith was allowed rare access as officers did a top-to-bottom search for contraband and weapons.

The shakedown was prompted when corrections officers noticed something strange at the jail on Wednesday night. During a briefing, officers learned the specifics: an ominous threat from an inmate, coupled with a missing pair of scissors and a familiar odor -- the smell of burnt marijuana.

"...also overheard an inmate talking about, this inmate was going to be stabbed, and some of the officers," Major Sam Beard, the Jennings County Jail Commander, told his colleagues during the briefing.

So Shortly after noon, a team of 15 corrections officers armed with tasers and pepper ball guns moved in. It's a quick, military-style operation, with the officers ordering the inmates to the floor and then transferring them to a holding area.

"You never know how dangerous an operation is until you get into it," Beard said.

Then they implemented a slow, methodical cell-by-cell search which did not take long to produce results.

Officers found materials that could be used to make unsanitary tattoos -- and worse -- potential weapons.

"They find ways to heat their toothbrushes," said Cpl. Jason Allen. "We've found razor blades melted into toothbrushes before."

The jail has a history of violence. In 2009, three officers were taken hostage and two were stabbed. Commander Sam Beard, who came here in 2011 - says part of the problem is a gang culture long dominated by white supremacists.

"The other gangs sort of try to control the drug flow and everything," Beard said. "But when you get to the white supremacists, they try to control stuff with violence."

That's why beard says it's better to be proactive with operations like this one.

"I want to ensure the inmates' safety, and I want to ensure the staff's safety," he said. "That's the bottom line."

Following the operation, the jail will remain on lockdown from 4 to 24 hours, to give the inmates time to calm down.

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