Conditions worsening at Ray County, Missouri jail, sheriff says

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HENRIETTA, Mo. — The Ray County, Missouri sheriff says conditions at the jail are continuing to worsen.

A sales tax vote Sheriff Scott Childers said would’ve paid for a new facility failed in August with 82% of voters voting against it.

In July, FOX4 showed you holes in the walls at the Ray County jail, even mushrooms in the drains caused by the moisture.

The facility had multiple prior escapes, and at the time, was housing a murder suspect.

“We have walls that are rusting, and people are able to pull the metal off to make shanks,” Childers said.  “We did have a stabbing in here a couple weeks ago.”

Childers said that inmate needed medical attention.

He also said there was a gas leak Monday night. Deputies smelled the natural gas pouring in the jail.

He said where the gas line goes into the water heater, it had rusted, corroded, and just fell off due to moisture. He said it pulled off the water heater and broke the gas line in several spots.

“Upstairs is where our furnace is at, so had that gas just been sucked up into the attic and we wouldn’t have smelled it, it definitely could’ve created a big explosion,” Childers said. “It could’ve leveled the jail and killed over 60 people in the process.”

Adding to that, the jail, built more than 20 years ago, doesn’t have a sprinkler system or exhaust fans to pull out smoke.

Childers said there’s also no warm water in the jail until the water heater can be replaced.

Childers said the jail has also been dealing with power outages, but the back-up generator is broken and will cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair.

“When the lights went out, that’s when the stabbing happened,” Childers said.

Childers may recruit a board to examine the jail’s deficiencies and present options to the Ray County Commission, which makes the monetary decisions.

Tuesday, Presiding Commissioner Bob King told FOX4, “We know the jail is not safe. We’re trying to figure out what we can do to help Sheriff Scott Childers. We’re willing to work with him any time he wants work with us.  We want the best for Ray County that we can get.”

The commission will approve a budget in January.

“We’re going to figure out a solution,” Childers said.

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