WORTH CO., GA (WALB) - Worth County officials are sharing more details of an inmate's escape on Friday.
The Interim Sheriff Bobby Sapp said inmates rushed in to help the female jailer after officials said inmate Duke beat her, stole her car keys, and headed to Dougherty County.
Albany Police captured Duke 15 hours later at the Dollar Inn on North Slappey Boulevard.
Sapp said he's relieved Duke is now back in custody, and his jailer is recovering.
But he said this is an example of much-needed improvements to the jail.
He said he hopes this is a wake-up call for residents to realize the condition of the jail is a public safety issue.
"We were scared to death for the community as a whole," said Sapp.
He said the 15 hours after inmate Charles Duke escaped felt like an eternity.
"It was a scary incident for us all. We were obviously concerned for our jailer that was injured and what could happen with an inmate that possibly had acquired some weapons while he was on the run," he said.
Sapp said Duke was in a cell block area Friday night when the female jailer came in to make contact with various other inmates.
According to Sapp, the jailer has been an officer for close to 28 years.
"She has had escape attempts before and was very instrumental in stopping successfully other escape attempts," he said. "But she was rushed by the inmate, she had no idea it was about to happen. She was struck immediately when she opened the door. And she fell down, it appeared she had been knocked out, and the inmate just simply made his escape by grabbing the jail keys and making his way through various parts of the jail."
Sapp said Duke stole the jailer's car and headed to his mother's home in Dougherty County.
Meanwhile, the other inmates stepped in.
"The other inmates came to the aid of our detention officer and rendered first aid best they could to her, picked her up off the floor, took her to the front of the jail where they could help her summon help," said Sapp.
He said because of staffing issues, there are times when there are very few jailers working.
In this case, the female jailer was the only one in the back of the jail.
And because of tight budgets, many of the jailers have to manually open cell doors instead of electronically controlling the facility.
"It's definitely an issue of public safety," he said. "This was a very dangerous inmate. I'd like to think if we had a little bit better facilities, a little bit more modern equipment, a little bit more help, it probably would not have happened."
Sapp said he hopes this dangerous escape is a catalyst for change and improvements in the jail, which was built in the 1970's.
"Quite frankly, we're going to have to go over budget to keep our people safe and to update the jail," said Sapp. "There's been a lot of talk for about 15 years about building a new jail for Worth County, and inevitably, it's going to have to happen in time."
Sapp said this is an issue of public safety, and taxpayers need to realize that.
"When you talk about spending tax money for different things in the community, obviously new schools and fire departments and that kind of thing comes to mind, and people are obviously okay with that," he said. "When you talk about spending money on inmates, that's usually not very popular, but it's a necessary funding."
Sapp said Duke was in custody in Worth County for multiple charges including probation violation for a possession of a firearm by convicted felon and cruelty to children.
Duke is now facing multiple charges in Dougherty County including home invasion, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and armed robbery.