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Safely behind bars.

FROM THE OUTSIDE, THE LANCASTER COUNTY PRISON in Pennsylvania looks like a medieval fortress--solid, impenetrable. However, with its CCTV security system in place, the facility is more secure than any castle was in the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The high and unscalable outer protective wall of the prison remains as in the castles of old, but there the similarities end. The technologically advanced security control system in this prison could not have been dreamed of in the past even by Merlin himself.

The major goal of the security system is "to provide the ability to transport prisoners safely from one location in the prison to another and be able to follow the movement," explains Tim Schroeder, sales manager of B&B Communications in Lancaster. This has been achieved through multiple control points of cameras and motion detectors that permit constant monitoring of movement throughout the facility.

Vince Guarini, warden for Lancaster County Prison, adds that the security system enables security officers to monitor staff and visitor movement through the building. The video-recording capabilities help protect staff against accusations of abuse or misconduct. Inmate awareness of the powerful video and control system helps deter violent incidents and property defacement.

Guarini refers to the security system cameras as the prison's hall monitors. Because of the level of control achieved through the surveillance system, it is not necessary to have escort officers present for every move an inmate makes.

Prisoner movement occurs daily, whether it is one prisoner going to the medical center or groups of prisoners going to and from a multipurpose room. Areas on a daily transit path of the 650 inmates include multipurpose rooms used for treatment sessions, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or for school classes and church services; the gymnasium; the urban yard for outdoor recreation; the medical center; or other facilities in the prison. For the inmates to get to all these places, they must use hallways, stairways, and elevators. All of these locations are monitored by CCTV cameras and integrated video system equipment.

A combined design strategy for the video security system was developed through a coalition effort that included architects, engineers, and prison staff. Plans for securing the facilities entailed extensive product demonstrations. "The design meetings resulted in one of the first total solid-state packages we designed incorporating the TC652 camera and the Allegiant Switcher Control System," says Sam Valenti of Langbaum Associates, Inc., speaking about the BURLE video equipment that was used in this prison installation.

The security system package was chosen by the warden after thorough demonstrations, actual on-site testing, and joint consultation. "Regarding the product line, the cameras are extremely small and flexible," says Guarini.

The CCTV equipment selected for this system included cameras, housings, pan/tilts, mounts, monitors, receiver drivers, signal distribution units, alarm interface units, motion detectors, and a large matrix switcher and control system.

The architects determined the position of the 76 1/2-inch format monochrome charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras throughout the maze of hallways and corridors with interlocking doors, inmate pods, recreation areas, and various other facilities. According to Schroeder of B&B, special attention was given to the camera lenses. Being an essential part of the video system, each lens' field of view was custom chosen one location at a time for all the cameras in the system requiring fixed focal length lenses.

The use of different types of camera mounts and housings was dependent on the location and the level of security needed. Each installation site was customized. For instance, four tamperproof, maximum security housings were installed in the "suicide cells" where twenty-four-hour monitoring is required for the safety of the inmates themselves. Low-profile ceiling-mount housings were located throughout the hallways.

The video from all the cameras is controlled and viewed in the prison's remote control centers (RCC), located on the different floors of the prison. Twenty-three 19-inch monochrome monitors provide constant video for the system. The controlling factor is a flexible microprocessor-based video matrix switcher and control system including five remote keyboards.

The main control room is a constant buzz of activity. It serves as the communication hub for the entire prison. Here operators can override and control all hallway and room access via locking and unlocking doors and all video, including the video from the other RCCs located throughout the facility. Four monochrome monitors switch as incoming video motion detection signals and officer calls are received by the system in the control room.

A total of eight RCCs make up the system. Six are controlling RCCs with keyboards, and the other two are capable of viewing locations only. RCCs are located in both maximum and lower security floors and are constructed with one-way security glass.

The centers use video recorders in alarm situations and for general surveillance of groups of prisoners, for instance, in the urban yard. Video taping activity of large groups is insurance in case of a disturbance. "When adrenaline gets pumping, it is not always possible to remember the exact sequence of events and who did what," states Guarini. The video records events as they actually occur and provides a permanent record of occurrences.

The exterior of the prison is protected by more than the perimeter wall. Outside cameras guard the prison from break-in attempts. Successful break-outs have traditionally been caused by break-ins. "We want to know who is on the other side of the wall," Guarini explains.

Where access control in the medieval castle required a drawbridge, the modern-day Lancaster County Prison fortress has a remote-controlled commitment area. The highest cluster of cameras is installed at the commitment area since it is the only breach in the perimeter wall. Constables and officers bring prisoners to this outside gate to enter the prison. A camera and a speaker outside the gate provide visual and audio identification of the prisoner and officer.

Once newcomers are checked, the remote-controlled gate opens, and the car is admitted into the salleyport. The salleyport is a containment area inside the wall but not inside the prison building. There, the prisoner is removed from the car, and the scene is scanned by video cameras. After the prisoner is searched, the officer and prisoner are admitted through another locked door. In this way a high-security level is maintained during all prisoner entrances and exits.

The use of video security equipment at the Lancaster County Prison enables the warden and his staff to perform with a high level of control and quick reaction time. They are able to monitor the daily passage of prisoners from their first steps on the grounds at the commitment area all the way through to daily activities that make up the life inside the prison walls. The Lancaster application demonstrates the versatility and value of a closed-circuit video system as a fundamental and integral component in prison security systems.

Robert Drob is sales manager of BURLE Industries, Inc., in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Prison Security; security considerations in correctional facilities
Author:Drob, Robert
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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