More than 200 CCTV cameras are used throughout the four-building Westchester County Department of Corrections (DOC) in Valhalla, N.Y.

Explosives detection equipment is used in the facility.
In the early 1990s, the Westchester County Department of Corrections (DOC) in Valhalla, N.Y., was hardly a model of efficient security. Its complex access control system hampered security efforts, and its being proprietary forced security officials to use only cards and equipment from one vendor.

The costly Westchester DOC system covered a complex of four buildings: the maximum-security penitentiary of 365 beds, the jail for those awaiting trial, DOC headquarters and the DOC annex for an overflow prison population.

“Problems just plagued the system,” asserted Sgt. Don Smith, technical services director for the Westchester County Department of Correction. “Door readers weren’t working, cards weren’t working and we needed to look for a new system.”

Approximately four years ago, prison officials requested money to change the system. The DOC penitentiary went online with new security equipment in April 2004 that was installed by Antar-Com Inc., White Plains, N.Y., part of the Diebold Enterprise Security Systems group. The equipment is installed in four different building complexes to form a totally integrated system.

The access control system manages all of the sliding doors leading into corridors of the penitentiary and enables security personnel to link specific events to video captured by any of the 14 integrated digital video recorders.

The 200 card readers interact with a programmable logic controller that locks and unlocks corridor and exit doors, housing entrances and sliding doors that lead to cell blocks.

Security officials also created an intercom system integrated with a matrix switcher and more than 200 CCTV cameras. When an officer pushes a button for the intercom, the camera concentrates on the intercom area, allowing the officer to view the person with whom they are speaking.

Two levels of security are part of the system. The first level features a security officer who has a membrane control panel in front of him or her that includes a map of his or her area of responsibility. That officer can unlock doors directly from this panel.

The second level of security allows officers to take command of the membrane in emergencies and enables the control center officer to oversee the entire area without any other officer intervention.

If an officer is under assault, another officer sitting nearby in a 10-foot-by-10-foot, glassed-in “control bubble” can aid or override local security officers in case of danger. Systems control all of the doors leading to the “bubble.”

In addition to the penitentiary, the jail was outfitted with the same system in the summer of 2004. Male and female prisoners are housed in different parts of the facility. The security for the fourth floor, which houses women, can be programmed to decline elevator access to those workers who do not have work privileges on that floor and can provide corroborating digital video if necessary. The jail also has four DVRs.

The new security implementation extended to the 22-person DOC headquarters as well. The headquarters house the deputy commissioners’ offices, payroll, special investigation units and all IT servers.

“Antar-Com really came through for us,” Smith stressed. “We really needed to have the access control system installed in the women’s unit right away. I called Isac on a Friday and by the following Tuesday, the whole project was completed.”

Additionally, training for the new system from Software House and American Dynamics, both part of Tyco Fire and Security’s Access Control and Video Systems business unit, has helped.