A prison is, by definition, a secure place. Those who supervise correctional facilities deal in levels of secure access – from the door on an individual cell to the door open to the facility’s external secure perimeter.
According to a report featured on Security Management Online, a prison has certain probabilities for a number of security breaches, each with its own degree of consequence.
The safety of the inmates, the facility’s staff and the surrounding community all depends upon maintaining secure access at all levels. And the most logical way to do that is by maintaining secure accesses to the prison’s keys.
Supervisors need to know the condition of the prison at all levels. Frequent information gathering, on both a regular and random basis, is needed to assure that everything is running smoothly throughout the facility. Although various forms of electronic surveillance can be used to maintain that flow of information, there is no substitute for routine tours by trained officers carrying a fail-safe mechanism to keep them moving and recording incidences.
All systems used to maintain security in a prison setting must be impervious to tampering and routine wear and tear. A correctional facility is operated all day, every day. Therefore, several individuals supervise large-scale security systems, and the system’s tools are used continuously.
The construction of a brand new correctional facility in Woodstown, New Jersey replaced an old, outdated structure and gave its supervisors the chance to take a fresh look at their security needs. As a direct supervision prison, the new Salem County Correctional Facility was to contain two maximum security levels – a security building level and a living level containing 1416 beds for inmates. Ray Skradzinski is the deputy warden for the new facility.
The facility’s guard tour system was one area where Skradzinski felt considerable improvement was necessary. Routine tours of the checkpoint stations would be needed to maintain security, but Skradzinski had another reason to reconsider the old facility’s outdated clock recording system.
“By state mandate in New Jersey we’re required to make routine rounds every 30 minutes in the evenings inside the pod, from 10 PM to 7 AM,” he said recently. The purchase and use of a more efficient guard tour system to guide officers through their tours and record their presence at checkpoint stations, helping reduce liability and maintain security.
Keeping track of keys was another concern. The keys to the old prison’s doors were kept in an old-fashioned locked key-box, and security personnel had to literally sign out keys. “When we built the facility we were looking to enhance our system,” Skradzinski stated.
The key management system purchased for the facility would be used by a variety of personnel. The facility currently has about 130 employees, about 36 of whom have access to master keys of varying security. Skradzinski was looking for an enhanced system that would help him account for each key and restrict its access to the proper personnel.
For both systems, Skradzinski turned to Morse Watchman, the world leaders in security management products.
The Morse Watchmans guard tour systems are made up of three components: checkpoint stations, placed in fixed locations throughout the facility; handheld data recorders that are carried on rounds and used to check into the stations and record other data; and EZ ™ Data Sorting Software, which converts recorder data to useful custom reports.
Morse Watchmans guarantees its checkpoint stations for life. They’re built out of impact-resistant Lexan(r), the same material used for professional football helmets.
“I remember we didn’t like some of the other data recorder systems that we researched, because they didn’t seem to be rugged enough,” Skradzinski recalled. “We wanted something we knew was going to hold up and last. We did like the design, style and reliability of The Boss 2002 that we eventually chose. The Morse Watchmans salesperson who came in and demonstrated it dropped it on the floor to show us how rugged it was and that was one of the major selling points for us.”
In addition to durability, The Boss 2002 features “Auto Pilot,” which is a user-selectable option that displays the next station to visit on the tour. Thus Skradzinski can pre-program the order in which each checkpoint station is to be visited, and the recorder will lead the officer from one station to the next. The Boss 2002 can carry up to 99 incident codes, enabling officers to input any data that supervisors have coded into the system.
As for the issue of key security, Skradzinski chose Morse Watchman’s Key-Rings(tm), which use a simple, yet efficient, close-and-lock system.
For the overall accountability and management of the facility’s keys, Skradzinski selected Morse Watchman’s KeyWatcher key management system. The KeyWatcher system conceals keys in a high-tech, efficient wall-mounted cabinet that can expand to hold up to 1000 keys. Each key is individually locked in place, and can only be released by entering individual user codes. Audit trail reports can be generated through a standard printer.
Keys are randomly returned to the box, reducing the opportunity for unauthorized access. Morse Watchman’s tamper-proof “Smart Keys” electronically monitor key release and return. A 1/8-inch thick tamper-proof stainless steel ring protects each key.
Skradzinski had been impressed with the KeyWatcher system and associated products back in 1994. “I liked the structure of the storage cabinet; it’s a well-made metal box. It certainly held up over the years that we’ve had it,” he expressed. “The design was attractive and it met the specifications that we were looking for.”
There are two KeyWatcher storage cabinets inside the Salem Country Correctional Facility, maintained in two maximum-security control centers, from which the keys are distributed.
“The central control center is only manned by supervisory staff and specially trained staff that work that specific area,” Skradzinski mentioned.
Skradzinski said facility staff installed the KeyWatchers and The Boss guard tour system on their own. “It was very simple to do,” he continued.
Reaction among supervisors at the Salem County Correctional Facility to the two Morse Watchman systems has been positive.
“The officers think the PowerCheck is a good system,” Skradzinski said of his supervisors. “From an administrative point of view, we like it – the reports that it generates are accurate and it’s something we certainly wouldn’t want to do without.”
According to Skradzinski, the system has helped to raise the efficiency of his officers, as well as comply with state regulations regarding routine rounds. “The Morse Watchman handheld data recorders are a way of allowing us to make sure we have a definite record that the rounds are being made,” Skradzinski revealed. “And it’s also been there in a couple of instances where we had an internal investigation.”
Skradzinski said he has been satisfied with the way Morse Watchmans dealt with his staff. “The tech support system has been good,” he complimented, and “they’ve always been very pleasant with us.”
Skradzinski remarked, “We wanted a good, efficient way of maintaining accountability of our high security keys and the ability to restrict who had access to them – and that’s exactly what we got.”
Since implementing the KeyWatcher, the Salem Correctional Facility has not lost a single key. Without a doubt, Morse Watchmans has helped the Salem Correctional Facility put the lock down on accountability and access control throughout their maximum security building.
Learn more about key control solutions for corrections.