The inmates changed the number above a cell to the number that identified the door leading outside the jail. So when an inmate asked a young, inexperienced jailer to let him into his cell, the jailer was fooled into opening the outside door instead.
The group then fled, throwing off their orange uniforms and using blankets to climb over a fence topped with razor wire on Sunday evening.
"It may sound crazy, but these people are crazy like a fox," Walker County Sheriff James Underwood said at a news conference in Jasper.
Inmates "scheme all the time to con us and our employees at the jail," Underwood added. "You have to stay on your toes. This is one time we slipped up. I'm not going to make any excuses."
The sheriff said the inmates "went off in every direction," but all but one were captured within eight hours, and the sheriff said he hoped the last prisoner would be back in custody by the end of the day Monday.
The 11 were arrested without violence, and the only person seriously hurt was an inmate who sliced his thumb climbing over the fence, the sheriff said.
The fugitives were between 18 and 30, facing charges ranging from disorderly conduct to attempted murder.
A manhunt continued for the last fugitive, Bradley Andrew Kilpatrick, 24, of Cordova, who had been jailed on charges of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. That search was getting some airborne help from a state helicopter.
Underwood estimated that the inmates had cleared the barbed wire fence in less than 10 minutes.
"They took advantage of a young fellow that hadn't been here very long" and who had to monitor 150 inmates at a time, the sheriff said. They apparently saved peanut butter from food regularly served at the jail.
"They love peanut butter sandwiches," the sheriff said.
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