Jailhouse Rock-Solid Security

When Midland County, located in central Michigan, sought to replace its badly overcrowded jail, voters authorized a $25 million budget to construct a modern facility that would house 250 inmates. Today the new 103,000-square-foot facility, which opened in January, incorporates the main detention center, intake and release area, visitation quarters, plus food and laundry services. Securing the entire complex is an advanced IP-based video surveillance solution integrated with door control, guard tour, card access and intercom systems.

Contracted to install the robust solution, as well as provide design consultation, was Midstate Security LLC, of Grandville, Mich. Working in a new construction environment greatly eased the usual challenges and burdens associated with electronic security installations at correctional facilities. However, at Midland County Jail, the integrator blazed an IP trail of sorts by providing the facility with one of state’s first such networked systems.

Novel Solution Chosen for Facility

Midstate Security has provided integrated electronic security systems and monitoring services since 1980, working in a diverse range of markets, including commercial, government, industrial and residential. Correctional facilities, however, have long been a particular specialty of Midstate Security. For about 20 years the company has designed and installed security systems in jails and prisons throughout the Wolverine State.

Despite Midstate’s wealth of experience, Midland County Jail nevertheless proved to be a unique project.

“I call on most of the jails in the state, and Midland County Jail is the first correctional facility I’ve seen in Michigan to use all IP-based network cameras for video surveillance,” says Jim Brandsma, a veteran security consultant at Midstate Security. “IP solutions are just beginning to become the standard in the corrections market.”

Midstate Security collaborated with TowerPinkster, an architects and engineers firm, to design the security system at Midland County Jail. The end-to-end solution is based on Panasonic System Networks Co.‘s i-Pro network cameras and NVRs.

Although Midstate and TowerPinkster had worked together on other Panasonic systems, they took a decidedly systematic approach to choosing a solution for Midland County Jail.

“Various manufacturers were brought in to set up a demonstration and show-and-tell,” says Brandsma. “The user looked at other manufacturers, but they were most happy with the quality of the Panasonic picture. The vandal-resistant domes fit right into their facility without having to use separate vandal-resistant housings.”

Another factor was cost, given Panasonic does not require licensing for its recorders, whereas other IP solutions providers typically require a licensing fee for each camera, Brandsma explains.

The end user also appreciated the flexibility and performance of installing a network-based video surveillance system. “In this entire facility we were able to standardize on three Panasonic camera models, which is a big plus for us from the standpoint of maintenance and training,” says Kevin Beeson, who has served as facilities manager at the jail for 15 years.

Maximizing Megapixel Resolution

A total of 62 Panasonic i-Pro WV-NF302 megapixel vandal-resistant day/night fixed dome cameras (note: all subsequent references to i-Pro are from Panasonic) are used to view all of the jail cells and the hallways. The 1.3-megapixel cameras and other video system components operate on a dedicated local area network (LAN) to provide sufficient bandwidth. The entire solution utilizes Cat-5, and most cameras are powered via power over Ethernet (PoE).

The WV-NF302 network camera features a 1,280 X 960 megapixel image sensor and dual streaming capabilities. Its rugged heavy-duty metal body and polycarbonate dome cover is especially well-suited for a correctional facility environment.

The megapixel cameras help to lower the overall camera count, given their ability to cover an entire housing pod with a single camera while providing the ability to “electronically zoom” into an area of the larger image without losing any events happening in the broader view.

“It provides a higher measure of security because you are able to ascertain a lot more detail,” says Brandsma. “You can zoom in while an incident is happening to see a detail, but everything is being captured and you don’t lose the details.”

Megapixel image quality is paramount to the jail, Beeson says. “Because the quality is high, you have enough information in frame-by-frame storage to see clearly what’s going on. In a courtroom you want to be able to enlarge an exhibit so the jury can see it.”

There are nine i-Pro WV-NS954 pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) dome cameras used for auto-tracking of guard tours in various pods. The cameras can also be set to automatically move into position to view a door alarm.

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