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Deputies foil escape from Columbia County jail

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – At least one inmate was hoping for a jail break from the Columbia County Detention Facility, but the elaborate escape plot was foiled by detention facility personnel.

According to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, mortar around a block inside a jail bathroom was being chipped away with homemade tools.

About an inch of mortar was gone, but CCSO spokesman Murray Smith said if no one had discovered the plan, the inmate or inmates would have most likely gotten through eventually. The hole would have led them to the roof, where only a fence and some security cameras would have stood in their way.

"As we've seen, where you have the time to do it and it hasn't been discovered -- it may take weeks to months -- but it'll happen sooner or later," Smith said. "The modern jails and prison systems, they look at how we can better secure people. They've learned, for instance, to make sure the exterior walls have reinforced concrete with rebar in them and not just something that you can remove a block and push it out like this facility."

But another inmate alerted deputies inside the facility to the possible plan, prompting a search of the dormitory on Tuesday.

Detention deputies isolated the inmates that had access to the area involved, locked them down and began a thorough search for contraband. The search uncovered several homemade tools used in the operation, putting an end to the plot.

"There's a number of people in jail that know they made a mistake," Smith said. "They're biding their time and they're going to get out and be productive citizens. There's that maybe 1 percent that it doesn't matter, they're going to try and get out."

Smith said maintenance crews were out at the detention facility, fixing the area in the bathroom, and deputies are investigating to see which inmates were involved in the plot.

No inmates have been charged yet.

"I'm proud of all the detention personnel at the jail," Sheriff Mark Hunter said in a news release. "Their diligence prevented this escape and kept our community safe."