HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Mayor Toby Barker said the city is now looking at other options for court appearances after an inmate escaped from the Hattiesburg Municipal Courthouse Monday morning.
"We want to make sure the public is kept aware of these situations, but we also know Monday pointed out there are some deficiencies in the process," Barker said. "Right now, we are evaluating process, procedures, personnel to make sure this does not happen again."
Fate Santee, 36, escaped from his initial appearance around 10 a.m. Monday, wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles. About two hours later, Hattiesburg Police were able to locate San tee and take him into custody behind a home on East 7th Street.
"I'm not going to cast anybody under the bus, but I don't think it will happen again," said Judge Jerry Evans to Hattiesburg City Council Tuesday night.
Evans was presenting his budget to council members when asked about the incident. Evans called the incident "rare" to council and said "it won't happen again."
"The reason they were using that bathroom we discovered that when you take them out to use the restroom, they go out to the front restroom and they had somebody in the audience putting dope in the trash can and we caught them and it stopped," Evans told council members. "That's why they were using the bathroom behind my desk."
Evans said there were other incidents that happen but "you don't hear about."
Council member Deborah Delgado asked Evans about the use of a courtroom at the Forrest County Jail and if that would be available for initial appearances, instead of having to transport prisoners to the courthouse.
"It's extremely difficult to go out to the jail," Evans said. "AT&T told us we would have to run a dedicated line to the jail and that was way too expensive to utilize."
Evans said currently, there is no way to access the computer system from the courthouse at the a jail.
"At this courtroom they can type it in as its going on, they can have it ready and as we get through we court we just have to get it together and transmit it to the jail. Who's getting out, who's not, who's got to stay and pay a fine," said Evans.
"We have to really check and see if there is a technology issue there, so right now we are evaluating video conferencing capabilities and if we can use the courtroom on site," Barker said. "All options are on the table right now, we want to do everything we can and have every uncomfortable situation to keep the public safe and keep that from happening again."
Evans told council video conferencing or using the jail courtroom was not included in his budget presentation. Barker said the city will look at the best options when it comes to funding and keeping the public safe.
"Well its appropriate we had this conversation during budget time because it allows us to look at our entire court system. Policies, procedures, personnel and see where do we take this in the future and how do we best equip ourselves with everything we do," Barker said. "Whether it's regular court or regular court, DUI court or environmental court, we need world class municipal court and that is what our administration is committed to making happen."
Evans also shared concerns over safety of inmates if they were to be released after initial appearances at the jail off Highway 49.
"There are prisoners that we release on that day, they get out at 6, 7, 8 o'clock at night and some of them have to walk to Hattiesburg because transportation is not provided. Some of them get hit by a car and get killed," Evans said. "That's why we do not use the jail unless we have to, we don't have the facilities in the jail to do all the transactions necessary to get released from jail."
San tee is facing multiple charges, including an escape charge after Monday's incident. He has also been served four indictments on previous weapons charges.
Diamond Kidd, 24, who police said was Santee's girlfriend, was also arrested on Monday. Kidd was charged with aiding an escaped inmate and booked into the Forrest County Jail. Officials said she allegedly gave him a ride from the courthouse once he escaped.