Security upgrades approved for Cascade County jail

Posted at 2:08 PM, Jul 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 17:56:56-04

GREAT FALLS – A little more than a half-million dollars in improvements are coming to the Cascade County Detention Center.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved the final contract for major security upgrades to the facility.

The approval allows Corvinus, a private security and automation solutions company, to install new switchboards throughout the jail. The new system remotely controls the facility’s locks and allows inmates and jail officials to move throughout the building in a safe manner.

“We need to be able to move not only inmates but correctional officers, deputies, medical staff, kitchen staff, from one area of the facility to the other,” said Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter.

The $520,100 contract will allow for the replacement of the decades-old system that Slaughter says posed a significant security risk to staff and inmates, and required costly upkeep.

“They’re 22 years old now, so the actual maintenance of them is becoming very expensive,” he said. “It’s just time that we upgrade to a modern system to keep our facility safe.”

Slaughter says the much-needed safety improvements come after the old switches experienced significant failures – either opening doors that were meant to remain closed or giving false indicators at the jail.

“So some were saying ‘open’ when they were ‘closed’ and vice versa,” he said.

Slaughter says while there hasn’t been any significant incidents that involve jail riots or events involving the switch failures, but he says the new upgrades will prevent any future incident from occurring.

“We already have a significant security issue,” he said. “And it will be compounded if we do not fix this issue.”

He says the new switchboards are also more efficient, allowing inmates and staff to move from one area to another in less time.

“We have to get them to rack yard time, medical appointments, visitation-all these different appointments that occur within the facility,” he said. “If a detention officer were to go and open the door and physically let them (inmates) out each time, we’d never meet our appointments- we’d never be able to get them there.”

Slaughter says the Cascade County Detention Center is the largest regional prison with nearly 500 inmates.

“To run this efficiently, we have to have better technology,” he said.

The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office had received bids in May from Corvinus for $520,100 and Security Automation Systems for $550,000. Both companies asked for at least an extra $80,000 for unexpected costs during repairs. Commissioner Joe Briggs said the $80,000 was not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Between the two companies, they (Corvinus) were the less expensive company,” Slaughter said. “But ironically enough, which almost never happens, they also provided the most service and product for money.”

This isn’t the first time the detention center has worked to make improvements. In February, county commissioners approved just over $50,000 for a dozen new jail locks.

Reporting by Keeley Van Middendorp for MTN News