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Correct flaws that allowed Citrus jailbreak

Citrus County residents should be able to rest a little easier at night since Friday's capture of the last of five inmates who escaped more than two weeks ago from the Citrus County Jail in Lecanto.

But while it may be comforting to know that these desperate criminals are no longer on the loose, residents still have cause to be concerned about the possibility of another escape from the 16-month-old jail.

Officials at the state Department of Corrections are reviewing what went wrong at the jail the night of Feb. 17. They are expected to offer explanations and/or lay blame for the convergence of circumstances involving people and equipment that resulted in the jailbreak.

But it is to be hoped that the DOC investigators also will suggest ways to avoid a recurrence of escapes. Such recommendations are the part of the report that will be the most useful and that everyone in the county, from Sheriff Charles Dean to the county commissioners to the jail's neighbors, should be most interested in.

Dean has shown gumption and good sense by taking the ultimate responsibility for the jailbreak. It is refreshing to see a politician and public servant who is willing to take the lumps for his or her employees. Dean promises to examine questions of inadequate or inattentive jail staff.

The sheriff steadfastly has defended his corrections staff, pointing out how its professional pride was stung by the escapes. Dean should use the occasion to reprimand those at fault while applauding those who worked yeoman hours to recapture the escapees and keep the lid on the jail in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Dean has raised troubling questions about the design of the nearly new jail, saying the architect should have anticipated his design could be a security problem. Dean also takes issue with the DOC officials who either overlooked or were not concerned about those problems when the county took possession of the jail.

Dean continues his own investigation into the escape, but he is waiting for the DOC report before he takes any further action. The state report might not be finished for another two to three weeks.

But when that analysis of the escape is in hand, the sheriff and the County Commission should be prepared to act on the recommendations of the DOC without delay.

Who will pay for making any recommended improvements in the jail's security should be of secondary concern for now, and each governmental body involved should avoid the pitfall of waiting for the other to pull out its checkbook first.

In short, fix the problem immediately and worry about the money later, even if means going to court later.

Citrus County residents may be breathing a sigh of relief now that they know these jailbirds are back in the cages where they belong. But those residents cannot let down their guard until their elected officials have proven that all that can be done is being done to prevent a recurrence of this dismal episode.

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