Local jail puts money toward security

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CALLAWAY COUNTY –The Callaway County Jail has an aging security system as old as the jail itself, which was built in 1979. This presents law enforcement with several challenges.

“As far as related to technology, that’s ancient,” said Callaway County Lieutenant Clay Chism. “There has certainly been issues come up where we did not have camera footage of the incident, where that footage would have been instrumental in making a criminal case."

But while there are some challenges right now, change is on the way. Callaway County plans to spend $245,000 to upgrade its two-part security system. Currently, there are two systems: the control panel, which officers use to unlock certain doors/cells, as well as the video system, which allows them to monitor jail inmates.

“Those two systems right now do not integrate, so they’re literally operated two different ways,” Chism said. “But with the new system, we will be able to integrate the two, and by one click of the mouse you can control both.”

Chism said the new initiative will allow them to add more cameras, which is currently a worry for both law enforcement and inmates. Stephen Pratte, an attorney in Callaway County, said one of his clients was accused of fighting another inmate in prison. Pratte said the video system the prison used was also outdated, which caused a lot of problems when he was trying to defend his clients side of the story.

“There were gaps in this video, which led to a ton of speculation and supposition as to what my client had and had not done,” Pratte said.

Pratte said it’s important these camera systems are updated and accurate, because incarcerated people  sometimes aren’t treated fairly when they are attacked behind bars. 

“They’re already fighting a battle, and there’s a presumption of guilt, so that’s sometimes what they battle,” he said. “It’s important to have something that can overcome that presumption of guilt.” 

Callaway County Commissioner Gary Jungerman said the video the cameras do capture can sometimes be so blurry that it’s inadmissible in court. He said it’s important these cameras are added to ensure the safety of officers and inmates inside the jail. 

“I think the main reason for new system not only for security of our CO’s in jail, but also for the security of the inmates themselves. We’re responsible for them, so we have to make sure the inmates stay safe too from each other. It’s a double-purpose initiative,” Jungerman said.

The new system should be in place next spring.