Contract awarded for new camera system at county jail

LISBON — Columbiana County commissioners are continuing with their security upgrades at the county jail by replacing the camera system.

Commissioners on Wednesday agreed to contract with Johnson Controls to provide and install a network of 98 cameras that will provide 100 percent video surveillance of all building and grounds. There will be 17 outdoor cameras, 29 in the hallways and 52 in the rest of the jail.

“We should have no gaps,” said Ben Black, systems administrator for the county clerk of courts.

The clerk’s office was asked by commissioners to take the lead in recommending a new jail camera system since it was already in the process of accepting proposals to replace the security camera system at county municipal court. The clerk’s office recommended commissioners go with Johnson Controls in both instances.

The 20-year-old jail is currently served by two old camera systems incapable of providing the same coverage and video resolution as the new system. Black said there were also many blind spots with the current system, and some of that had to do with the jail itself.

“I don’t know what architect designed that building but they didn’t know how to design a square room,” Black said.

That problem will no longer exist. “We will have full coverage with the new system,” he said. “This will give us the ability to not only view everything inside but everything outside. It can record in all four directions (simultaneously).”

County Commissioner Mike Halleck pointed out installing a modern camera system was among the steps he announced in May would be undertaken to address a seemingly continuous stream of reports about problems at the jail.

“These cameras will go a long way toward addressing a lot of the concerns about security we had about the jail,” he said. The jail is operated by a private company under contract with commissioners.

Other changes implemented on Halleck’s recommendation included the purchase of a full-body scanner for the jail. The scanner is capable of detecting drug paraphernalia and other contraband being smuggled into the facility through inmate body cavities.

The $118,750 scanner was purchased with $250,000 set aside in the state capital budget for that purpose. The state allowed the remaining $131,250 to be used toward purchasing new jail cameras, which cost $160,852. Halleck said the county will contribute the rest of the money.

He said the body scanner was installed this week and staff training is to begin soon.