In a project that had been in the works since early 2019 and under construction since February 2020, the Cascade County Jail finished installing a brand new switchboard system.
The system will be more reliable and have many more features than the old system, according to Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter.
“First of all, they’re just basically far more reliable. They work all the time, where our old ones weren’t working properly,” Sheriff Slaughter explained. “They also have more features, they have more safety features for the officers, so the officers can’t sometimes open doors when not intended, but then also there’s also features to open all the doors in case of an emergency that weren’t in the old ones.”
The old switchboards had been in place since 1997, and Sheriff Slaughter explained that while they may have been top-of-the-line back then, there was an obvious need for the upgrade.
The new system also comes with a system that can identify which inmate is in which cell, a feature that should put organization at the forefront of the jail’s operations. Slaughter went on to say that there were so many new features, he couldn’t even put into words how much they will help make the facility more efficient.
The project cost $580,000 and involved several contracts, which were acquired through a bidding process at Great Falls City Commission meetings. Despite the price tag, Sheriff Slaughter expressed no doubt that the upgrades were worth it, stating that it was an important step to protect both the detention center staff and inmates.
The switchboards control dozens of operations around the building, including cell doors and the intercom system, which will make communication and organization all the more efficient.
This project was part of what Slaughter calls a “capital improvement plan,” which he’s had a vision for ever since he took the Sheriff position on January 1, 2019. He stressed the importance of having such a plan, especially when the Sheriff’s Office building gets a lot of wear and tear on a daily basis.
“The goal is small costs all the time versus big costs every once in a while,” he explained. “We hope that they’ll last as long as the old ones, but we also need to look into the future and look at what we need to do next and plan for it. The reality of it is, although these are better and more reliable, they’re also reliant on more technology, so that’s also an issue we have to keep an eye on as well.”