Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sheriff proposes expanding jail’s camera coverage

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 11/26/2012

More space comes with the need for more cameras, Jeff Curry said.

Curry, Franklin County sheriff, presented a proposal Monday to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners about additional surveillance cameras in the Franklin County jail, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa. The additional cameras would be installed in the portion of the detention facility that until recently housed juvenile offenders, Curry said.

More space comes with the need for more cameras, Jeff Curry said.

Curry, Franklin County sheriff, presented a proposal Monday to the Franklin County Board of Commissioners about additional surveillance cameras in the Franklin County jail, 305 S. Main St., Ottawa. The additional cameras would be installed in the portion of the detention facility that until recently housed juvenile offenders, Curry said.

“That area is not outfitted with cameras in the cells,” Curry said at the board’s study session. “Now that we’re going to house adult inmates there, and especially in that area since it does not have the steel doors and it’s a little different setup over there, we would like to have cameras put in the cells and covering the blind spots in that day room.”

Doing so would require the purchase of 12 additional cameras and another digital video recorder, he said. The total cost of the additions is expected to be $21,900. Curry said he would like to take $11,900 from one of the inmate accounts that the office has been compiling for such a purpose. The balance of that account, Curry said, is about $20,000 and comes from inmates commissary funds, work release funds and phone contracts. That fund typically is used to pay for inmates’ mattresses, bedding and uniforms.

The sheriff asked the board to approve using $10,000 from the inmate housing fund to pay the balance. In 2012, $60,000 was budgeted in the account, which was to be used if excess inmates had to be housed out of county. The county has not had to use the money for that purpose, Curry said, so the account remains intact.

“I would like to ask that we just spend $10,000 out of that line. It’s already budgeted. It’s there to upgrade this camera system,” he said.

In 2011, the sheriff’s office upgraded the video surveillance system in the jail by installing 64 color digital cameras that constantly record on two 32-channel digital video recorders. That upgrade, Curry told board members, has decreased damage in the jail dramatically. The system eliminates blind spots, he said, with cameras throughout the facility as well as in the cells.

“The cameras have definitely been able to serve their purpose,” he said, adding that complaints made by inmates or staff can easily be investigated by reviewing video tape.

When that system was purchased, Curry did not make a formal request to the board for funding, instead taking the $67,000 from the jail budget. Statutorily, the sheriff has control over how funds are spent within his budget after the county board approves the sheriff’s yearly budget. While the sheriff did not have to make a purchase request to the board, Curry said previously that he had learned a lesson about making large purchases, and advocated for increased communication between his office and the board.

Shari Perry, Franklin County clerk, did not disagree with the surveillance system purchase, but said a county audit indicated the inmate account and the work release account are separate and should be subject to board review.

 “Neither of these accounts are taken care of by the treasurer, which I think if you guys don’t know what’s spent out of it when it’s spent, I think that’s something the board of county commissioners should know about,” Perry said during public comment.

She stressed the funds are county money, and the commissioners should know what they are spent on. Curry said both funds are subject to any open records request, and the board can request to see those accounts at any time. An open records request relating to the accounts, filed by The Herald Monday morning, was not filled by press time.

Because the board cannot vote at study sessions, its members are expected to vote on the purchase at its regular weekly meeting 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in commission chambers at the Franklin County Office Annex, 1428 S. Main St., Ottawa.

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