Chronic overcrowding, understaffing, and an outdated design contributed to the largest escape in the history of Yakima County, Wa.,’s downtown jail, a union official representing corrections officers told the Yakima Herald-Republic. “It was an accident waiting to happen,” Wayne Johnson of Teamsters Local 760. Jail officials don’t dispute the point; jail director Steve Robertson added that his officers reacted quickly in capturing five of the nine escapees before they could get off the building or the grounds. The inmates managed to punch through the jail roof in the hectic late stages of the dinner hour Friday when corrections officers were picking up dinner trays in the fourth-floor maximum-security housing units.
Teamsters representative Johnson said the union has repeatedly said the jail is overcrowded and too thinly staffed for a population that sometimes exceeds 900. About 800 inmates were in the main jail and its annex when the escape occurred; among the 800 are more than 300 held under contract with local cities. The two buildings were designed for 574 beds.