Junk food casualty: Jail locks down for 8 days
A trusty looking for a snack from a vending machine in the lobby of the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail led to the facility being locked down for a week.
Metal rods were discovered missing from the vending machine in the lobby January 6 in an area only available to jail employees and trusties, says the jail's superintendent, Colonel Ron Matthews.
"To be on the safe side, we closed down the jail and did a 100 percent search," he says. The missing 16- to 18-inch rods did not turn up, and the individual suspected of having access to the machine denied having a snack attack.
"We stopped all inmate movement," Matthews explains. "We were looking for something that could potentially injure someone."
That meant that for approximately 530 inmates, all recreation and visitation came to a halt. At a jail built to house just 329 inmates, the lockdown left some inmates crammed into a 5' by 8' cell with up to three other people.
The inmates were only told that they were locked down for security reasons with no further explanation, according Marjorie Sunflower Sargent, who received a letter from a friend incarcerated there.
"We are very stressed out," Kevin O'Connor wrote to Sargent. "Some people experienced panic attacks and others traumatic psychological and emotional consequences... What the hell is going on? Please help us."
To Sargent, a human rights activist, locking so many people in an overcrowded facility is "unconscionable."
When a search did not turn up the vending rods and a week had passed, Matthews tried a new strategy.
"We offered him immunity," he says. The trusty 'fessed up that when he tilted the vending machine to get candy, the rods came out. He said he threw them in the trash and they were taken out with the regular trash.
On January 13, the lock down ended.
As for the inmate responsible for his fellow prisoners being locked down for a week–- how safe is he?
"He won't go back to the general population," says Matthews. And he has the option of going to another facility.
The jail superintendent says this is the second lock down he's had since coming here in 2004, and observes, "That's part of corrections life."
–updated January 17 with the more common spelling of "trusty."
Updated January 18 with the Marjorie Sargent and Kevin O'Connor remarks.