The Runnels County Jail has undergone some major technological upgrades which will improve the running of the facility and provide added security.

The Runnels County Jail has undergone some major technological upgrades which will improve the running of the facility and provide added security.

Sheriff Carl Squyres said that all of the cameras he requested have been installed, which covers every jail cell and covers the exterior of the facility as well. Squyres has said that Runnels County was woefully behind technologically and he has been working to make those improvements, thanks to cooperation from the Runnels County Commissioners.

At the time the 87-bed facility was built in 1998, there were 16 cameras installed to cover both the interior and exterior of the jail. When work began to install the new cameras, only 11 of the cameras still operated, however, they could not record and could only be viewed in real time.

The new camera system, which cost $24,262, placed an additional 19 cameras at the jail.

“They cover every inch of the jail that the inmates have access to,” Squyres explained.

With the new camera system also came a new server, and all of the cameras have the ability to record, with recordings captured for 25 to 30 days at a time.

Plus, the jail administrator and Squyres now have the ability to use a cell phone ap, which allows them to check the jail remotely in real time 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This is a significant upgrade,” Squyres said.

In addition, security for the jailers and inmates has improved thanks to a new control system that has been installed at the jail.

“Our system was antiquated, you could not get parts for it and nobody works on them anymore,” Squyres said.

The new system is computer touchscreen system and allows the jailers to control the doors to the cells and it allows inmates to speak to the jailers, without opening the doors.

“The jailers do not have as much direct contact,” Squyres said. “They do not have to physically get out - it makes it a lot safer for the jailers.”

This system cost approximately $53,000 but it is being paid for through commissary phone profits made through Encartell Phone Systems over a period of years.

Plus there is a new inmate phone system, which was installed at no cost to the county. In addition, a new commissary service will take over those duties at the jail. Sterling Commissary of Clifton, will take on the service, which will give inmates a wider selection of items to purchase, from food items to toiletries. This service also tallies the inmates’ commissary accounts and all of these services are provided at no cost to the county. Plus, the county can receive a 15 percent commission on all items sold.

“This could be a real money maker for the county,” Squyres said.

The inmates place their orders over the phone and the items arrive bagged and all the jailers have to do is hand out the bags.

In addition, the company will place two new kiosks in front of the jail which will allow family members to use debit cards to place money in the inmate’s account. Another service that the company is providing free of charge.

The upgrades are especially helpful since Runnels County signed an agreement with Tom Green County to take up to 12 inmates a day at the jail due to overcrowding at the Tom Green County Jail. The county began taking prisoners in early March.

Installation for the COPsync equipment, which was approved by commissioners in February, has been delayed, due to computer issues with the county, but Squyres assures that it is “going to happen.”

Commissioners approved a nation-wide program on Feb. 14 that provides the sharing of information in real time between law enforcement agencies, school districts and local businesses.

The cost of the program is $98,496, and includes computers, cameras, training and COPsync fees. Commissioners unanimously approved the acquisition.

Squyres said he is extremely appreciative of the commissioners and Runnels County Judge Barry Hilliard for their support during this technological upgrade.

“I really appreciate everything they’ve done,” Squyres said.