Lexington County, S.C. Jail Getting New Surveillance Cameras

The Lexington County jail, plagued with escapes by four inmates last summer, will get 25 surveillance cameras with upgraded digital technology.

Lexington County Council recently awarded $64,566 to W. H. Platts Co. of North Charleston to install the improved security system.

The new cameras are part of a routine maintenance program and will not "substantially alter security" at the jail, sheriff's spokesman John Allard said.

The sheriff's department declined to discuss details about the new cameras, such as whether they will extend surveillance into areas previously not under a camera's watchful eye, or whether they would heighten security in parts of the jail that already have cameras.

Allard said the department is remaining silent because disclosure would threaten safety of staff, inmates and the public, plus the sheriff's department must protect investigative techniques.

Despite the sheriff's department's silence, the bid documents submitted by the Platts company show the number of new cameras is 25, eight of which are for outdoors.

When three inmates escaped in July, they were gone at least 11 hours before authorities noticed, a timeline of the events shows.

And an alarm system for homes near the jail did not sound, neighbors complained.

It took three weeks and a multistate pursuit before all three were recaptured.

In late August, an inmate trusty serving time for a traffic violation walked out of a jail kitchen. He was captured soon after near a Waffle House in Springdale.

The money for the cameras comes from the account for operating the canteen for inmates, Allard said. Sales to inmates are projected to raise about $363,000 this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2006.

The cameras replace old ones damaged by lightning strikes, said Keith Kirchner, assistant sheriff for law enforcement. The purchase will not increase the number of cameras in the jail's surveillance system, he said.

The sheriff's department is studying whether to request a grounding system to protect the overall system, Kirchner said.

The cameras are to be installed in about a month, said county procurement manager Sheila Fulmer.

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