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Security system goes high-tech

DOC funds improvements at judicial complex

April 21, 2010
Security has tightened a notch or two at the Crawford County Judicial Complex with the recent installation of a digital video recording system, paid for with funds earned from housing Indiana Department of Correction inmates.

Crawford County Sheriff Tim Wilkerson points out details in the new security system to control center operator Keva Bullington at the Crawford County Jail. Photo by Lee Cable
The new system, featuring state-of-the-art digital cameras and computer-stored archives that can be retrieved and recorded on a disc, makes it easier for the sheriff's department not only to record video images, but to copy them with a sharpness that aids in identifying incidents and any people involved.

The new security system, which replaces an outdated and inefficient VHS formatted system, was approved by the county council several weeks ago and was installed recently in the control center at the jail. The cost of the system, a little more than $39,000, was covered by the income from housing DOC inmates. No county taxpayer funds were needed for the update.

"This system records constantly, 24/7," Sheriff Tim Wilkerson said. "With the old system, we had to record until a tape was full, then change it and store the tape. Then, once we ran short on tapes, they were reused. VHS tapes and rewinders are getting hard to find, so we reused them time and time again. After being used and recorded over a few times, the images were blurry and some of them were so bad that it looked like it was snowing when you tried to play them back."

The video recording system, required by law, stores images from several cameras inside the jail, in the public areas of the courthouse, including the courtroom and hallways, and also covers the parking lots and outside perimeter of the judicial complex.

"We don't have cameras in any of the courthouse offices but almost everything else is monitored," Wilkerson said. "We have several monitors in the jail control booth so we can see what's going on in real time, and everything the cameras see is recorded and stored in the system. Anytime we need to look at the footage, we can go to the control booth, slide a keypad out of the storage compartment and, when we key in a code, a calendar pops up in the screen. We then punch in a date and time, and the video from each camera operating during that time is instantly available to either view or put on a disc or both."

"This is like the Cadillac of security systems," corrections officer Jason Carroll said. "We can monitor the prisoners throughout the jail. The DOC inmates are not a problem. They follow instructions and do what they're supposed to do. Most of them are housed here because they are on the last leg of their sentences and they don't want to mess up. But it's the local inmates who give us the most problems, and now we can see them and what they're doing almost constantly. It's a good thing for safety reasons. Some of the prisoners can be violent. This (the DOC program) provides us with more and better tools to do our job."

Another program, operated from a computer in the sheriff's office, records every time a door is locked or unlocked and who did it. Each courthouse employee has a key fob that allows them access to several doors. The computer re-cords the use of each one and saves that data in case it's needed later.

The system will be maintained by the installer, Stanley Integrated Security Systems, which has had the security contract at the judicial complex since it opened in 2004.

The sheriff's department recently reached a milestone with the DOC inmate program by earning $1.5 million for the county. The money from the program does not go to the sheriff's department but to the county general fund. The $39,000 for the security system was the first of the income that was returned to the sheriff's department.

The main expenses footed by taxpayers for the sheriff's department include payroll and fuel for patrol cars. Many additional expenses are paid for out of commissary money from the jail, including inmate purchase of snacks, phone cards and other miscellaneous items.

"I buy uniforms, boots, duty gear, cleaning supplies, copy paper, computers, tires for our patrol cars, training and even patrol cars out of commissary money," Wilkerson said.

"I just bought six patrol cars and two SUVs from Floyd County with commissary money. Most of them are already equipped with needed equipment and have fairly low mileage. And they didn't cost the Crawford County taxpayers one red cent. We've also bought new kitchen utensils, trays and work tables for the kitchen and mattresses and jail uniforms."

The only additional expenses associated with housing the DOC inmates are medical and dental needs.

The department now has a doctor, dentist and nurse practitioner on contract to come to the jail when needed. These expenses are reimbursed by the state for DOC prisoners but not for county inmates.

The new jail was built with 74 beds in order to accommodate DOC prisoners, and the state now keeps about 50 inmates there at all times.

"With this program, we've become a source of income for the county instead of a continuous expense," Russ Beals, office administrator at the sheriff's department, said. "What we're allowed in our budget only goes so far. So, the DOC money and the commissary income makes a big difference in the things we need to operate this department."

"The county bought one new patrol car in 10 years," Wilkerson added. "But now we have plenty of vehicles and even spares in case of breakdowns or accidents, so we're set for a while."

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