Northumberland County Prison Board moves forward with new camera system
SUNBURY - The Northumberland County Prison Board instructed warden Roy Johnson to work with the county IT department to develop specs for a new surveillance system and determine the best places to install cameras.
County Commissioner Vinny Clausi said he wants the system to be brand new and cover every part of the prison that is allowed by law in order to avoid future lawsuits.
"We're not playing no more games. If someone punches someone in the mouth, we can't say the camera didn't work," he said at Wednesday morning's prison board meeting, referencing past issues involving both inmates and guards.
Clausi also noted he wants a professional company to install the cameras in order to acquire a warranty and ensure the equipment is installed properly.
Digital camera installation
Cameras and a new videoconferencing system were topics of discussion as a focus remains on upgrading technology at the 19th century facility.
On Tuesday, county commissioners agreed to seek proposals to "blanket" the prison with cameras capable of infrared and color photography. On Wednesday, Clausi, in his role as a member of the prison board, made the motion to move forward, and District Attorney Tony Rosini seconded it. The motion passed 6-0. President Judge Robert Sacavage was not present.
Johnson said they will soon be putting up 12 digital cameras. The prison is expected to have 90 video surveillance cameras operational within the next two years.
The digital type cameras have better quality and clarity and more storage space because they have hard drives, he said. Some of the 48 existing cameras, which record footage on videotape, will be placed in areas of less foot traffic, Johnson said.
Last month, prison board members agreed to pay a maximum of $75,000 over the next 18 months to two years for the purchase and maintenance of the new cameras.
Also Wednesday, Johnson updated the board on a videoconferencing room and attached private meeting room, saying the majority of construction is completed, but that electronic hook-ups still need to be completed.
Less money, less time
Commissioner Stephen Bridy, chairman of the prison board, said it cost less than $7,000 for the room and upgrades, well under the $12,000 that was budgeted.
Video equipment in the three county courthouse courtrooms and four county magistrate offices is also being updated. Courtrooms will have new laptops with 17-inch monitors and the magistrate offices will have new laptops with 15.5-inch monitors, the smaller size for portability reasons, Bridy said.
High-powered Wi-Fi in each of the courtrooms and less-powerful Wi-Fi in the magistrates' offices is also being installed, Bridy said.
The goal is to save the probation department time and money by not having to pull each file and then transport defendants to each court room.
The board had ordered that the work be done in 90 days, and it only took 30, Bridy said.
"I would like to thank my fellow commissioners for putting me in charge of this project, and I look forward to increasing efficiencies and saving tax dollars through the use of technology on many more projects in the future," Bridy said later Wednesday.
In relation to the new equipment, Clausi and Commissioner Rich Shoch got into a brief argument when Shoch requested the minutes from the Feb. 6 meeting to reflect that no decision had been made on the purchases and that only a discussion had taken place.
"We cannot wait and wait and wait. We're not playing around," Clausi said to Shoch. "You want too much red tape."
Shoch clarified, saying he was only asking for an amendment, and made the motion to accept the minutes with the amendment. Clausi then seconded it, and it passed 6-0. After it passed, Clausi said, "God bless America."