Colquitt County — located in South Georgia just a short drive from the Florida state line — is home to more than 45,000 people and features all of the charm one would expect to find in small-town America. But just like any other community in the nation, the county has its share of citizens who run afoul of the law and end up spending time in the Colquitt County Jail.

The jail, located in the county seat of Moultrie, is a three-pod detention facility capable of holding up to 210 inmates at a given time. As with any correctional facility, the jail features a host of advanced security systems, including video surveillance. However, while camera technology has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, the Colquitt County Jail still relied on an antiquated, black-and-white analog CCTV system plagued by numerous blind spots.

The surveillance system was so old, the staff lacked the basic capability to save video footage in an efficient manner for evidentiary purposes.

Howell realized they needed to make some significant upgrades to their surveillance infrastructure if they were going to fulfill their obligation to not only keep the Colquitt County public safe, but the inmate population as well. Howell reached out to local security integrator Ace Technologies, which recommended a completely new video system from Pelco by Schneider Electric. Work on the project began last fall and was completed by the end of the year.

“We performed a complete overhaul of the video system and brought them into the 21st Century with digital, high-definition surveillance technology from Pelco,” said Ace Technologies Vice President Jammie Stalvey. “They had a lot of big, old bulky cameras and the system was really on its last leg. Besides that, there was a big part of the jail that had no coverage at all.”

Unlike hanging cameras on a network in a typical commercial building, Stalvey said they had to work around the added complexity of the jail’s hardened walls as well as the fact that they had no real network infrastructure in place throughout the facility prior to the installation.

They had no infrastructure to build on so we had to build a network with fiber optic cable, data cabinets and network switches before we could even start putting in the new IP-camera system. We had two or three different trades — IT technicians, electricians, etc. — working on this, in addition to security system installers,” said Stalvey.

To address all of the jail’s video surveillance needs, Stalvey and his team installed more than 70 high-definition IP cameras from Pelco, including 69 Sarix Series dome cameras and two Spectra Series pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras. The Spectra cameras feature six times the resolution of standard-definition domes so that important identifying features can be seen with great detail. This level of detail is critical to the security officers in the Colquitt County Jail, who now rely on this technology to maintain order while ensuring a safe work environment for guards and staff.

Additional Pelco solutions included two 12TB Digital Sentry network video recorders embedded with Digital Sentry NVS video management software; a Digital Sentry workstation; and six 32-inch Pelco video monitors. The entire solution works seamlessly together to offer officials the ability to view live and recorded video, store data for future use, and provide forensic evidence to investigators in the event of an incident.

Howell and the rest of the Colquitt County Jail staff are very impressed by the quality of the new surveillance network. “The system Pelco provided us with is so far ahead of what we had and it has successfully uncovered a lot of those blind spots for us — ones that we didn’t know we had,” Howell said. “Obviously, we’re still finding some more, but that’s just because of how good the camera system is now. The resolution and the quality are just phenomenal.”

It also didn’t take the jail very long to see a return on their investment once the new surveillance network was up and running.

“Just two days after we put up the Pelco system, we caught somebody throwing contraband over the back fence,” Howell said. “The Digital Sentry video management system helped our guards spot some movement where it wasn’t supposed to be.”

More recently, Howell said, surveillance footage from the system played a key role in the apprehension of a nurse who allegedly attempted to bring contraband into the jail. “We were able to utilize video from our parking lot to discredit her story that someone planted it in her vehicle while she was at work. When you’ve got two different sides of a story, the video tells the truth,” Howell added.

Of course, the new and improved surveillance network has paid dividends inside the jail by helping guards more quickly identify problem inmates within the pods. So far, at least five people have been trained to use the Digital Sentry video management system, which, according to Howell, was easy for guards to learn because of its user intuitiveness.

“It was much easier to use than anything we’ve had before, especially in going back and pulling up old video clips to copy for case files and things along those lines. It made a world of difference,” Howell said. “Everyone who sits in our control room — one person, three shifts a day — knows how to use it. It is very user friendly.”

Howell said they have already set aside funding to install additional cameras that will cover other blind spots in and around the facility.  “We love it and will continue to work with it,” Howell emphasized.