February 6, 2018 10:20:26 AM
The Oktibbeha County Jail will replace its aging camera system after county supervisors approved funding for a new one on Monday.
Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett spoke to supervisors during Monday's meeting about the jail's existing system, which he said is about 11 years old. With a new system, he said, the jail can eliminate well-known blind spots in the current one and add new cameras to monitor inmates in their cells.
"Inmates know the blind spots," Garnett said. "And most of the time, if they're committing crime inside the jail, it's happening in the cells."
Garnet said OCSO contacted the state auditor, who cited a 2009 Attorney General opinion that said it's permissible to put cameras in jail cells.
"It's a jail," Garnett said. "There's assaults. There's six people in the cells, and when it's over, one person's hurt and nobody else saw anything. It's really for the protection of the inmates themselves, is what it is, and to stop some of the criminal activity that we have that one person walking the floor can't do."
Supervisors unanimously approved a $23,853 bid from Security Solutions for the cameras.
District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery said the county should take steps to keep inmates safe.
"I mean, the inmate has committed a crime, but there's a lot of people who commit non-violent crimes," he said. "I would hate to think that anybody that's not looking for trouble--I mean they're doing their time and we need to keep that safe for inmates as well."
The Oktibbeha County Jail has 25 cells with a capacity of 115 inmates. With the new system in place, Garnett said the jail will boost the number of cameras in place from 26 to 76.
Garnett added he's hopeful the jail will have the new system in place by late March.
Most of the crimes that happen in the jail are destruction of county property, Garnett said. He said inmates will tear up jail sheets and hang them around toilets in an attempt for privacy -- and noted the jail is looking into a safe way to provide curtains so inmates won't tear up sheets.
He said inmates also use Bible pages to roll to up for lighting marijuana or tobacco.
"I've actually spent a good bit of money to put cages around the lights because they were tearing the plastic covers off the light and they can jump across the electricity to make a spark to light whatever they want to smoke," Garnett said. "It's a lot of stuff."
Supervisors also unanimously approved a non-exclusive franchise agreement with C Spire and its sister company Telepak to lay and operate fiber optic cable in Oktibbeha County.
The agreement paves the way for service in the county, though it's not yet clear exactly which areas C Spire may target.
C Spire Site Acquisition Manager Jerry Skipper went before the board for the agreement, which supervisors unanimously approved.
The agreement includes a clause for a franchise fee equal to 5 percent of gross revenue collected from Telepak's basic video service tier or "the lowest percentage payable by a third party provider of video services to subscribers within the county."
It also calls for a franchise fee equal to 2 percent of gross revenue collected from local phone calling plans.
Supervisors have recently started pushing to expand internet access in the county.
"I'm excited about the opportunity," District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller said. "I'm really excited that (C Spire is) looking at it."
During the meeting, Montgomery questioned how C Spire would handle providing service to areas away from the outskirts of Starkville, where residents are more spread out.
C Spire Senior Manager of Media Relations Dave Miller said the company has very recently started using fixed wireless, which allows it to lay infrastructure up to a certain point, then use a wireless signal to send service to customers.
He said that's one option that allows C Spire to more cost-efficiently provide service to customers, but he noted different areas provide their own challenges.
"That's the beauty of what we're talking about," Miller said. "There's no longer only one or two options to tackle the problem. They all have advantages and disadvantages, no question about that. But the reality is there's more ways to solve the problem.
"There are areas of the state that are more difficult to serve than others," he added. "With wireless, it's a signal, so it can be degraded by interference. Part of getting this newer technology out there is to overcome those challenges. We're optimistic we can find technology that works in these areas."
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