“They used a makeshift rope out of braided sheets and were able to come down the side of that building,” Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said of the incident, which occurred on Saturday night, according to reports by ABC 30.
Warnke said officers at the Merced County Jail noticed the inmates were gone during the morning headcount, and believe the breakout happened about 11:30 p.m.
“We do have officers walking up and down the cell blocks, but we are no longer allowed to wake them up because they deemed it necessary for them to have a whole night’s sleep,” he said.
Warnke added that the prison has been facing staffing shortages in recent years due to state and local budget cuts.
The inmates are between the ages of 19 and 21. Three of them are facing murder charges and two have been accused of firearms offenses.
Officers from local, state and federal agencies are assisting in the search. They are advising the community to remain vigilant, and not approach the prisoners if they are spotted, as they are considered armed and dangerous.
A $5,000 reward per inmate is being offered for information leading to their arrests.