MOUNT VERNON — High technology already exists at the Knox County Jail with a computer-controlled central command and jail management systems, digital video cameras and a new video visitation system for inmates allowing connections with family via the Internet.
On Thursday, Knox County Commissioners, taking an afternoon jail tour with Sheriff David Shaffer, observed another high tech advancement at the jail. Shaffer and Deputy Sheriff Sgt. William Shaffer, (no relation), banded together a new, soon-to-be-implemented inmate tracking system for a brief demonstration.
The Guardian system, which cost the county about $6,000, is a wristband system where each inmate, male and female, is assigned a wristband with a computer chip and their name assigned to it. The computer chips tie into mobile, handheld devices that allow sheriff’s deputies to scan an inmate’s wristband, and then with a tap on the device screen — a device which looks and operates similarly to a smartphone — assign the inmate to their next location. If an inmate goes into the wrong location, officers are immediately able to see so through the devices and the computers they integrate with.
In the past, a similar wristband system was only used for inmates needing medical appointment check-ins. The new system allows far more tracking from area to area. Another advantage, Sgt. Shaffer said, is that under the present system of inmate movement, one sergeant at a time manning the jail central command station is responsible for tracking inmate locations. Several jail employees at a time will make use of the mobile tracking system under the Guardian system, once it is implemented after a week-long training set for the week of April 29 to May 3 is completed.
About 30 jail employees total will receive training, spreading the responsibility of tracking inmates to more sheriff’s personnel.
If the way the new video visitation operates is any indication of how the Guardian system will fare upon implementation, all signs point to a good result, commissioners learned. They watched a video replay of a smiling inmate who was talking to a friend who remained out of camera view, but had used her smartphone and an app she downloaded to connect with her male friend.
Each inmate receives a username and password to use one of two video kiosks available to them. Inmates can buy increments of 20 to 40 minutes of video visitation at a time for a nominal price. The new video system can also make family visits easier.
“Everyone here seems real happy with it,” a jail employee said, as he watched the man and woman converse.
During their morning session Thursday, commissioners:
•Approved a Memorandum of Lease and Addendum for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to lease Suite 145 of the Knox County Service Center for a one year period starting July 1. The annual rent will be $2,401.
•Approved a notice of award regarding a asphalt patching material bid for 2019 to Small’s Asphalt Paving Inc. for its successful bid of $329,030.
•Approved the advertisement in the News for a Notice of Public Hearings for funding under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Small Cities program and HOME Investment Partnership Program.
•Under a new change in the Ohio Revised Code, approved an option that allows CORSA (the County Risk Sharing Authority) to add a “rider” to its liability insurance for all elected Knox County employees. The move will save the county up to $3,000 per election cycle, Booth said. The “rider” attached to their CORSA liability coverage is officially referred to as the Employee Honesty & Faithful Performance of Duty Policy.
In the past, elected county employees, such as the county commissioners, sheriff, treasurer, and auditor, have been required to find their own individual surety bonds that insure them against wrongdoing from one election to their next, but only for amounts up to $5,000, Commissioner Thom Collier said. Knox County government paid for the surety bonds, but it has become more difficult to find insurers who will provide such coverage, Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said. Collier and Bemiller both pointed out that commissioners do not directly handle money.