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Key control.

In the fifteen years that Ray Skradzinski has worked in correctional facilities security, he has witnessed a variety of security breaches. From inmate riots to escape attempts, staff members must prepare for any situation. Part of securing against such an eventuality is keeping keys safe and out of unauthorized hands.

Earlier this year, as a replacement building was being completed for the Salem County Correctional Facility of Salem, New Jersey, management took the opportunity to make the key distribution system more secure. Deputy Warden Skradzinski, who was charged with purchasing equipment for the new site, chose the KeyWatcher by Morse Watchman of Oxford, Connecticut.

The new facility, which can hold up to 416 inmates, uses electronic locks for inmate doors and outside perimeter security doors. Other areas, such as janitorial closets, offices, and multipurpose rooms, have regular architectural locks.

With a security staff of 118 correctional officers, tracking keys can be a challenge. Under the new system, each key is fitted to a smart-key inside a storage unit. The KeyWatcher can then be programmed to release each key to any number of authorized users. To obtain the keys, a user would enter an ID number and the number of the key into a key pad.

The new key control system records and tracks the access history of each key and user. If a key is not returned, the cabinet will sound a beep and automatically print out the ID number of the person who last checked out the missing key.

At the previous location, all keys were kept in one place on a pegboard. To check out a key, correctional staff had to sign a key log. This system often resulted in lost keys. "If someone took a key without logging it out, we had no way to track it," says Skradzinski. "We would have to consider the key lost and change all the locks."

The correctional facility has been using two KeyWatcher units for approximately seven months. One is in the central control area, and the other is in the booking control area. The keys in the control center are emergency back-up keys to cells and main doors whose electronic locks will not work in the event of a power failure. Only managers are authorized to retrieve the keys.

The key cabinet in the booking control area holds ten keys that open individual holding cells and vaults used to hold the personal property of the inmates. Other keys in the cabinet fit locks to outside gates and storage facilities.

The KeyWatcher is of particular value in the booking control area because it allows two levels of key security in the same cabinet. For example, only supervisors can open inmate vaults and holding cells, but outside gates and storage facility locks are open to a wider range of individuals.

According to Skradzinski, the KeyWatcher system has already proven useful. Though most of the keys are for emergency use only, they have been logged out a great deal in the new facility. "There are always glitches with policies and procedures," says Skradzinski. "But, because of the transition, we are forced to use the emergency keys more often than we anticipated. With the KeyWatcher system we can do this more safely."

For more information: Mary Ellen Orsini, sales manager, Morse Watchman, Inc., 800/423-8256.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Society for Industrial Security
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Title Annotation:securing keys in correctional facilities
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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