An escape plan by a group of prisoners in the Davis County Jail was foiled last week when corrections officers found several pieces of metal that had been shaped into knives.
The knives - or shanks, as inmates and jailers call them - were shaped out of aluminum taken from a light fixture in the jail's old section, according to Sgt. Dave Haygood, who discovered two of them during a routine inspection on June 12.Haygood and corrections deputy Mike Fierro were doing a weekly sanitation and security inspection of South Block in the old jail in downtown Farmington, a pre-trial cell block that contained 26 inmates.
Haygood said he found the first shank, a 3-inch strip of aluminum, wedged between a light fixture and the ceiling. Inmates had sharpened it "to a razor's edge by scraping it on the concrete," Haygood said.
Haygood and Fierro then found a 7-inch strip of aluminum, 3 to 4 inches wide, in the next cell block, also sharpened.
"Right away we noticed how quiet that cell block was," Haygood said. "It's unusual to have 220 people that quiet."
A reinforced crew of corrections officers was called in, the inmates were locked-down in another cell and a detailed inspection of the cell block turned up another four to five shanks, Haygood said.
Questioning of the inmates brought out a detailed escape plan, jail officials said. The plan took advantage of what the inmates believed to be some of the new, less experienced corrections officers recently hired.
Jail officials believe the escape was planned for that night and the knives, which may have been hidden in other areas, were moved into the cell to be closer at hand.
The shanks were made by taking apart a light fixture and removing strips of aluminum, then molding and sharpening them, Haygood said.
"It was well-planned," Haygood said. "If the information and the shanks hadn't been found, there's a very good chance, almost a 100 percent chance, that two or maybe three corrections officers would have been killed in the escape attempt.
"This was a serious attempt to get out," the sergeant said. "Exactly how they did it, getting the light fixture apart and getting the aluminum, I don't know.
"But these people are very good at watching the corrections officers, looking for patterns. They were good at it. Plus, they have all the time in the world."
An investigation was conducted by Sheriff's Department detectives, who have turned their findings over to the county attorney's office to determine if charges will be filed.
Inmates are scheduled to be transferred from the current jail in downtown Farmington to the county's new 368-bed facility in west Farmington within two weeks.