Sheriff: Prison reform advocate planted guns for jail break

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A longtimeprison reform advocate was preparing to stage a jail break when he hid loaded guns and ammunition in a new jail that was under construction,Tennessee authorities said Wednesday.

Alex Friedmann, a former prisoner turned crusader against private prisons and a longtime editor at Prison Legal News, was charged last month with attempted burglary. He was accused of gaining access to the new jail by dressing as a construction worker and stealing keys.

As the investigation continued, “it was discovered that Mr. Friedmann, over many months, had developed and implemented an extremely deliberate and, in my opinion, evil plan,” Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall said during a Wednesday news conference announcing Friedmann’s re-arrest on upgraded charges.

Friedmann is now charged with vandalism of $250,000 or more, with his bond set at $2.5 million.

Friedmann's attorney, Ben Raybin, said he could not immediately comment on the new charges.

Hall said he believes Friedmann was designing a massive jail break that would endanger “every inmate, every visitor and our entire community.”

“Virtually everything I’m telling you is on video” Hall said, noting that investigators have poured through hundreds of hours of video to identify the areas of the building that were compromised.

Hall currently serves as president of the National Sheriff’s Association and said no one there has ever seen anything like this before.

“It will forever change how correctional facilities are built,” he said.

Prison Legal News is a project of the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center. Friedmann resigned as editor after his earlier arrest in January, executive director Paul Wright said in a telephone interview.