Prison to get new door system

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2009

County commissioners will upgrade a broken electronic door system at the Decatur County Prison, in order to make the facility more safe for both the guards and the state inmates who occupy it.

At their Tuesday evening meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a bid of $24,060 from Montgomery Technology of Greenville Ala., for a new door security system.

The existing system, which is about 10 years old, stopped working several weeks ago due to “wear and tear,” Prison Warden Elijah McCoy said.

Normally, using an electronic system, detention officers at both the prison and County Jail are able to open the heavy doors from a remote control station. Since the one at the prison stopped working, guards there have been having to open doors manually using keys. McCoy said it’s both a safety issue and a fire hazard. Imagine what would happen in the event of a fight, fire or other emergency: both guards and inmates could find themselves trapped and in danger, he said.

McCoy said he demonstrated the urgent need to replace the door security system to County Finance Director Carl Rowland last week by holding a fire drill.

In the event of a fire, all of the prison’s doors are opened. McCoy said in that situation, he doesn’t care where the inmates go—as long as they escape the fire danger. When fire alarms go off at the prison or county jail, Sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers normally respond along with fire trucks and ambulances to make sure no inmates get away from the prison’s outdoor boundaries.

“Normally, it takes us about three minutes to get 300 inmates outside the prison,” McCoy said. “During the drill, it became clear there was no way the guards could manually open all 29 doors in three minutes.”

McCoy said Montgomery’s system has larger touch-screen monitors guards use to control the doors. It can also be tied into intercom and camera systems at the prison to enhance security.

County Attorney Brown Moseley, who formerly prosecuted criminals as a district attorney, asked McCoy about the details of a $1,200 price deduction for “inmate labor” specified in the contract approved by commissioners.

“[Inmates] would be pulling wire, moving equipment around-nothing to do with the security part,” McCoy said.