Correctional security: Costs vs. benefits

December 01, 2000 |

While the costs for maintaining America's prisons is staggeringly high, building teams are finding increasingly cost-effective ways to protect inmates and the public from threats related to correctional facilities. Part of the reason is the renewed reliance on integrated systems and basic communications within prisons and jails.

In California, it costs more than $21,000 per year to incarcerate the average prisoner, and almost half of that expense-a whopping 49 percent-pays for security. It is by far the biggest cost, followed far behind by health care, which represents a mere 16 percent of the cost. "The state must make sure the prisons are safe-for both inmates and staff," California Department of Corrections officials noted.

State-of-the-art communications systems are an increasingly vital silent partner in assuring government corrections agencies live up to this responsibility, in California and elsewhere. CCTV and increasingly more sophisticated access control are only as effective as an integrated intercom system, say many designers of correctional facilities. The reason is that audio enables an immediate response, while a CCTV camera cannot distinguish the important from the routine. Integration of security systems by retrofitting an intercom system is becoming increasingly common, according to industry sources.

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