Bret Emerson RCDD/NTS, Founder and President How should an ideal correctional facility be built? While there are different sets of ideas and approaches, only a few stand the test of time.
During the early 19thcentury prison reform, a famous English philosopher and social reformer, Jeremy Bentham, had a very distinct thought in that regard. He proposed central surveillance as a social control mechanism. In his writings, Bentham described an institutional architecture—the Panopticon—that would allow all inmates to be monitored by a single security guard, without the inmates knowing whether or not they are being watched. Bentham’s idea of central surveillance has today become a symbol of authority and discipline across correction facilities. Building on this concept of central monitoring, the surveillance systems in modern correctional facilities now act as the proverbial watchtower, facilitating seamless monitoring of inmates.
Today’s digital surveillance and monitoring solutions can couple with an advanced video management system (VMS), producing crisper and clearer images to be more vigilant and mitigate security risks at the earliest. IP cameras can further enable correctional officers to instantly access, monitor, and review live, as well as recorded video, covering every corner of the facility, and be proactive during any untoward incident. With these benefits in mind, many correctional facilities are now upgrading legacy video surveillance systems to an IP-based solution and locally stored or cloud-based VMS.
On that front, Bret Emerson RCDD/NTS, the founder and president of Commtech Design, believes that every facility has its unique needs and surveillance technologies should, therefore, be designed by independent designers to meet a correctional facility’s exact requirements. That is precisely what his company Commtech Design brings to the table. As a dedicated security consulting firm, Commtech Design provides technology design solutions for correctional facilities, businesses, and schools.
A Technology-Agnostic Approach to Facility Security
Emerson notes that when it comes to securing correctional facilities, “monitoring every inch of these large places may not be an economically viable option.” Commtech Design, however, works within a reasonable budget, providing versatile options that serve the specific needs of correctional facilities, helping them design the best monitoring solutions. The surveillance systems designed by the company are tested to be viable in the long run, ensuring unparalleled robustness as well as flexibility. Unlike most cases, where recorded footage is examined after an incident occurs, these surveillance systems can perform live monitoring as well. The company plants its camera units at strategic points so that even if one camera is too far away to identify a person, a second camera can be used to zoom in and identify them.
The core drive of Commtech Design is to help clients realize what they really need to bolster while building security
Apart from securing the campus, correctional facilities also have to monitor the outer perimeters, which can be another challenge in itself. Surveillance at the perimeter should be such that it can observe the inside of the fence as well as the outside. The real challenge, although, lies in extending the network from the control centers all the way through to the perimeter. “To overcome this problem, we came up with a unique solution,” states Emerson. Commtech Design upgrades clients’ existing control centers or designs state-of-the-art monitoring stations to support not just the camera systems but also any other type of technology on the correctional facilities’ perimeter, thus securing them on the outside and well the inside.
Banking on Extensive Industry Experience
Commtech Design stands steadfast on the competent shoulders of Emerson. Even before establishing Commtech Design in 2005, Emerson has been providing consultancy services and designing technology systems since 1994. His project experience ranges installations in single-building offices to 100-building university campuses. Prior to his entrepreneurial journey, Emerson has held prestigious positions at Progressive AE, Total Systems Integration, and Burkey & Associates, to name a few. It is then he decided to combine his experience as a technology designer and his love for architecture to find a niche domain of his own: providing robust security consultation and technology design services to correctional and other administrative facilities. “And rather than finding another job with another firm, I went out on my own and offered my services to everybody. And so far, it’s been a successful 15-year journey with Commtech,” adds Emerson.
The core drive of Commtech Design is to help clients realize what they really need to bolster while building security. The company possesses vast experience in dealing with various sophisticated systems and assisting clients in understanding the intricacies of modern security systems. Following a ‘learn and upgrade’ methodology, Commtech Design continually enhances its monitoring systems designs through client feedback and surveys, thus enabling correctional facilities and their other clients to avoid the most common pitfalls.
A Proven Record of Accomplishments
At this juncture, how these capabilities of Commtech Design help transform the correctional facilities warrants a case study. One of the reputed correctional facilities recently planned to redesign its security parameters. Once onboarded, Commtech Design began its process by thoroughly analyzing each site, detailing building locations, fence lines, and building layouts. The field verifications were turned into AutoCAD floor plans and then used throughout the project to provide the client with updated documentation. After the initial analysis of existing cameras, Commtech designed a new interior camera placement strategy for each building and an external monitoring system for the entire facility. These new camera placements were able to cover every inch of the perimeter fence, inside and out.
Commtech Design works within a reasonable budget, providing versatile options that serve the specific needs of correctional facilities, helping them design the best monitoring solutions
One of the critical challenges of this project was supporting IP cameras around a 5000-foot perimeter and transmitting those images back to the monitor. To address this, Commtech Design came up with an infrastructure that would distribute the network signal to cabinets every 600 feet around the perimeter of a facility and connect to IP cameras through category 6 networking cable. The secure cabinets were equipped with durable networking electronics that could withstand adverse weather conditions. As a result, the correctional facility could tie up to 65 cameras by distributing network signals through fiber ring and PoE Network connections to better monitor their premises. Overall, the new monitoring systems allowed the correctional facility to control 200 new cameras, enabling enhanced surveillance through large and robust LCD screens and video recording servers.
Moving Toward a Secured Future
The innovative offerings of Commtech Design do not stop at designing and installing camera surveillance. The company is working on the hands-free intercom and wave devices, which will enable secure access control and communication in the new COVID attentive world. Commtech Design is also moving into the world of distributed antenna systems, designing and building reliable equipment aimed at public safety. By bringing the latest network functionalities to law enforcement, the company is enabling older facilities to transition into new, capable structures with enhanced security. “Thus, every time a new technology enters the market, we bring that to the client and upgrade their facilities with state-of-the-art security and technology,” concludes Emerson.