Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 23, 2012

High tech zooms in on jail upgrades

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — A Garvin County law enforcement agency is turning to technology in a few areas to not only update some things but hopefully make them much more efficient.

Changes being made at the sheriff’s office in Pauls Valley range from improved security in and around the county jail facility to a whole new system for dealing with cash made available to inmates housed there.

In each case Sheriff Larry Rhodes said they’re turning to improved technology to make the upgrades.

“We’ve got a lot of new technology going on,” Rhodes said this week.

For one, it’s just about a wrap for a brand new digital surveillance system being installed in the jail.

In the works for some time, the more updated video system will allow jail personnel to literally see every inch of the facility, while at the same time being able to monitor the system from anywhere using their own cell phones.

“We’ll essentially be in every cell in the jail with this new camera system,” the sheriff said. “It will increase our awareness and safety in the jail.”

As an example, if something out of the ordinary is spotted in the cell, like inmates arguing, staff can use the cameras to zoom in and see who’s involved.

“With this system maybe we can intervene before it comes to a fist fight,” Rhodes said.

“We’ll have 24 cameras in the jail and are hoping to expand that in the future to provide coverage around the courthouse.”

Yet another upgrade is the recent start of a Cobra cash machine, which allows family and friends of inmates incarcerated in the county jail here to deposit money for their use while being held behind bars.

Rhodes believes this change will make a big difference in making the process more efficient.

“It’s a direct pay, direct deposit type of deal,” Rhodes said. “In the past we would hold money for those arrested. Now the arrestee can deposit money into an account to pay for things from the commissary.

“Inmates’ family can come in and utilize that machine to do the same thing. They can do it just outside the door,” he said, referring to the front door of the sheriff’s office in the county courthouse.

“It’s a convenience for the inmates and their families. It’s also a real benefit for us because it frees up so much time to focus on other things like the jail and law enforcement.”

As for the commissary, these are food items that by law a jail doesn’t have to provide to inmates.

In the past commissary purchases were done manually with inmates forced to provide cash and staff taking time to deal with that ongoing process.

That’s not the case anymore with the cash accounts provided by the new system.

“It gives inmates the ability to purchase a long list of items, from candy bars to chips to pickles to soup,” Rhodes said.

He adds all of these items are in addition to three meals provided to inmates each day.

Another upgrade on the way is an automated fingerprint system.

According to Rhodes, Garvin County is one of the last counties in the state to get the new system, which hasn’t arrived yet but an approved grant will make it happen soon.

“It electronically scans and submits fingerprints to the OSBI,” he said. “In the past we’ve always done the old rolled ink fingerprints.”