MERIDIAN, Miss. - The installation of 50 new cameras at the Lauderdale County Jail will keep inmates and guards safe, and provide evidence for possible legal matters, law enforcement officials say.
"This is a great new tool for us to document what occurs in and around the facility," said Maj. Ward Calhoun, spokesman for the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department.
Jail Administrator Kim Reece said the system is being fine-tuned, but the additional cameras have already caught several instances of prisoner assault.
Installation of the cameras began about two months ago and took six weeks to complete. The camera system cost $174,000 - $63,000 came from drug seizure funds and the rest came from the sheriff's department's budget.
"We had to cut corners, but it was definitely worth it," Reece said.
Guards and administrators now use two 42-inch plasma monitors, three 30-inch liquid crystal display screens and a dozen 20-inch LCD screens to watch activity throughout the jail. All the monitors are in color, while the old monitors had black-and-white screens.
The cameras record to a computer server rather than to video tape and the areas of the jail with the most traffic are wired for audio recording, Reese said.
Sheriff Billy Sollie said the new cameras have already caught three instances of assault by inmates. One of the attacks occurred in the jail's holding cells.
"An individual wasn't too happy he'd been arrested," Reece said. "Another inmate told him to calm down, but he just got mad."
Reece said the cameras captured the entire incident.
"We wouldn't have seen it otherwise," she said.
Another attack also occurred in the booking area of the jail, when an inmate assaulted a Meridian police officer.
Reece said the new surveillance system can help document what really happened in such attacks.
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"Ten people see things 10 different ways," she said.