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Maintaining Security And Compliance Within Jails And Correctional Facilities

Overview | Many Jails and Correctional Facilities Do Not Meet Certification Standards

In the United States, nearly 2 million individuals are detained in various correctional facilities. These facilities include 1,566 state prisons, 98 federal prisons, 3,116 local jails, 1,323 juvenile correctional facilities, 181 immigration detention facilities, 80 Indian country jails, as well as military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and other similar institutions. Across all 50 states, ensuring security remains a top priority for county jails and correctional facilities. To this end, many states have established specialized organizations responsible for maintaining community safety.

In Texas, for example, over 240 facilities fall under the jurisdiction of the Texas Jail Commission. The implementation of the Sandra Bland Act in 2017 has further raised the bar for certification standards. Still, according to the 2018 annual report, only 89.6% of facilities met the certification and compliance standards, highlighting the pressing need for up-to-date and dependable security partnerships.

Departments operating at the local and county levels are entrusted with the task of ensuring the smooth operation of these communities and the satisfaction of their inhabitants and undertake responsibilities such as managing waste collection, promoting recycling initiatives, overseeing financial planning, maintaining regulatory compliance, and caring for a wide array of structures, ranging from libraries to correctional facilities.

Compliance Regulations Aim To Increase Operational Efficiency and Inmate Safety

According to records from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, dating as far back as 1925, regulations were introduced to outline the procedures for operating county jails in the state. These regulations entrusted County Commissioners with the responsibility of establishing secure and suitable detention centers that were mandated to maintain cleanliness and promote good health.

In the late 1950s, revisions were made to these regulations to incorporate specific requirements, including spatial prerequisites, cell configurations, plumbing standards, provisions for meals, sanitation protocols, and the arrangement of inmate accommodations based on broad categorizations such as first-time offenders versus convicted felons and made distinctions between juvenile and adult detainees.

In 1975, the Texas Legislature established the Commission on Jail Standards with the purpose of enforcing a statewide directive. This directive aimed to ensure that all county jail facilities adhered to fundamental construction, maintenance, and operation criteria. 

Every year, a comprehensive on-site evaluation of each facility is mandated as part of jail inspections. Inmate grievances are allocated to inspectors for review, and significant incidents such as custodial fatalities or escapes are handled by specialized Critical Incident inspectors. According to the 2018 Annual Report from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, by the end of that year, a significant 89.6% of the county and privately managed establishments subject to regulatory assessment by TCJS had been officially certified and demonstrated adherence to the required standards. Instances of non-conformity notifications are categorized into three distinct types: Life Safety, Management, and Construction.

Challenges | Staff and Inmates Are At Risk of Hazards Due To Lack Of Surveillance

Correctional institutions lacking adequate security pose significant risks, potentially creating hazardous situations for both staff and detainees. This vulnerability can lead to increased staff turnover rates and higher instances of violence, subsequently resulting in substantial financial burdens for the facility. Failing to uphold current jail standards and operating non-compliant detention centers puts the counties that rely on their efficient operation in jeopardy. 

The Sandra Bland Act impacts various aspects of regulatory compliance, including bail reform, diversion programs, detainee safety, officer training, issues of racial profiling, data compilation, officer accountability, and behavioral health. It has also introduced new compliance requirements for Texas jails, focusing on safeguarding inmates with mental health conditions, including incorporating electronic monitoring.

inmates in a cell playing chess

Since these new regulations had to be fully integrated into the facilities by September 2020, certain local administrations are under pressure to implement these changes and swiftly ensure compliance. However, smaller local correctional facilities face resource allocation challenges. These facilities often operate with insufficient staffing levels, leading to gaps in coverage, and the criminal justice system as a whole struggles with recruitment. The shortage of available personnel, compounded by the complications posed by COVID-19, has forced local administrations to explore alternative surveillance methods. The issue of limited visibility is closely connected to resource availability.

Whether dealing with a compact facility or a larger county detention center, upgrades must be implemented efficiently and effectively. Each solution should demonstrate its effectiveness whether applied to a configuration of 5 cameras or 500. 

Solutions | Enhanced Surveillance Systems In Cells and Common Areas

Local correctional facilities require contemporary solutions that are adaptable and easily upgradable to accommodate potential future changes in regulations. A sheriff in a Texas county contracted MCA to replace a legacy system that was initially installed in the late 1990s. One of the primary objectives was to increase the number of cameras integrated into a new and improved comprehensive surveillance system. 

The MCA team worked to boost their camera count from 86 to a new total of 122. In addition to enhancing facility operations, the sheriff also emphasized that these upgrades directly impact inmate well-being. Installing individual cameras in holding cells proves cost-effective and reinforces the welfare of detainees. Their legacy surveillance systems were previously used primarily as a forensic tool, which at times was ineffective due to poor-quality audio or missing video footage. 

However, with their new security cameras’ improved audio and visual capabilities, their surveillance systems have transformed into proactive tools. Facility leadership can discreetly listen to and record relevant inmate conversations with their new systems, assisting in uncovering and preventing planned acts of violence. Another proactive audio tool involves triggering an automatic alarm if a certain sound volume level is exceeded, instantly prompting action for sounds like screams, gunshots, explosions, or glass breaking.

In addition to intercom systems, the access control system and video analytics can leverage intelligent cameras to detect crowd levels or unusual motion patterns. Considering the solutions to the aforementioned issues that arise in correctional facilities statewide, it becomes evident that upgraded and modern surveillance systems equipped with secure records ensure compliance and alleviate the burden of monitoring requirements.

MCA’s Restricted Area Certifications

At MCA, we possess the expertise and knowledge required to meet the unique demands of correctional facilities. Currently, we are actively engaged with numerous County Jails and Corrections clients, dedicated to helping them achieve their objectives and ensure the safety and security of their facilities. Our proficiency enables us to develop comprehensive strategies and protocols with strict standards to ensure that all MCA systems not only meet but exceed mandated code requirements. We don’t settle for minimum specifications – we aim to provide optimal solutions that address current and future needs.

MCA  also excels in facilitating the transition from outdated systems to modern alternatives, with UL-2050 certifications for highly controlled environments (SCIF and CRZH). The Texas Department of Information Resources oversees the state’s technological strategy and infrastructure and recognizes MCA as a vendor of choice due to our existing DIR contract. This ensures a seamless onboarding process with no unnecessary delays or additional paperwork, all in alignment with state requirements.

Accessing live and archived video feeds within and around a facility is of utmost importance. It allows clients to respond promptly to real-time events and conduct post-event forensic reviews. MCA’s video surveillance solutions empower these capabilities, enabling clients to access video feeds remotely and on-site. As we continue to progress in the digital era, our customers benefit from advanced video technologies.

About MCA

MCA is one of the largest and most trusted security integrators in the United States, offering world-class voice, data, and security solutions that enhance the quality, safety, and productivity of customers, operations, and lives.

More than 65,000 customers trust MCA to provide carefully researched solutions for a safe, secure, and more efficient workplace. As your trusted advisor, we reduce the time and effort needed to research, install, and maintain the right solutions to make your workplace better.  

Our team of certified professionals across the United States delivers a full suite of reliable technologies with a service-first approach. The MCA advantage is our extensive service portfolio to support the solution lifecycle from start to finish. 

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