AR jail to update surveillance system

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

PIGGOTT, AR (KAIT) - Having security cameras is nothing new, but some places many assume are safe don't have adequate video surveillance.  One jail not only has outdated cameras, but some of their cameras no longer work.

The plan is to get new cameras.  There are three different type of cameras inside the Clay County Detention Center, some from when the jail was built more than 20 years ago.

"Cameras are necessary for the security of the jail, security of the employees and security of the inmates," said Chris Crawford.

Crawford has been with the Clay County Jail for fifteen years.  During that time he has been a part of a jail break.

"It can happen with a pencil, it can happen with anything.  They get creative with whatever kind of equipment we give them or any kind of equipment they get," said Crawford.

Crawford said a prisoner made a "shank" using a toothbrush they had whittled down to a point and jabbed into his back.

"If they had a working camera in the right spot, I was in one of the hidden spots and if the jailer would have seen who was calling for the gate to be opened he would not have opened the gate," said Crawford.

"The employees are always at risk in the jail because a lot of them are sitting here and they're just trying to think up ways to get out," said Sheriff Gerald McClung.

McClung said the jail is inspected at least once a week for broken windows, broken light fixtures, anything that might be out of place that could be used by an inmate.

"We have had situations where a cornerstone has been loosened and then re-attached where they could try to escape," said Crawford.

Having new cameras would serve as extra sets of eyes because employees can't be everywhere at once.

"We'll look at replacing all of the old ones and I want extra cameras throughout this jail," said McClung.

There are some spots inside the jail where there are some blind spots.

"They can get under the camera, behind the camera and we've had instances of that," said Crawford.

Money for the new cameras is coming out of the sheriff's department budget.  They raised their fines for tickets by $15 and that's helping them fund this new system.  Sheriff McClung said he is in the process of getting bids.  People will be coming to the jail to analyze what they need.  At that point, the sheriff said he plans to decide how many cameras they will get, depending on how much the bids are.  They plan to have the cameras installed as soon as possible.

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