Blair County OKs plan to bid on prison cameras

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is expected to advertise soon for bids to purchase up to 70 surveillance cameras for the county prison.

The Blair County Prison Board, in July, recommended moving forward with soliciting bids for cameras and related equipment. A manufacturer’s recommended retail price is $176,000.

Commissioners set aside money in a 2017 bond issue for more security cameras that would improve surveillance and eliminate blind spots at the prison.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners Terry Tomassetti and Ted Beam Jr. voted in favor of advertising for bids. Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb was absent.

The project has no specific time frame, Deputy Warden Holly Garner told commissioners Tuesday.

When the idea surfaced at the July meeting of the prison board, Garner said that, once the cameras are purchased, they’ll need to be wired into the prison’s current camera system.

Both Tomassetti and Beam offered support for the pending purchase.

It was a recommendation in the state’s evaluation of the county prison system, Beam said.

The county’s prison and the additions added over the years have created a facility with “no line of vision,” in some places, Tomassetti said.

County leaders have sometimes described the prison as a maze with blind spots.

“You could break out of your cell and get lost inside,” Beam said at Tuesday’s meeting, drawing laughter.

Prison surveillance video has also become an important part of court proceedings in recent months where inmates and corrections officers have faced and challenged criminal charges.

Because of the prison’s video surveillance cameras, jurors were able to view video of several inmates involved in a plot to remove tobacco from another inmate’s rectum.

While the prison had no video of the assault, which occurred inside an inmate’s cell, it had video of the prison day room where the offender inmates could be seen developing the plot.

“These new cameras will definitely enhance the prison’s video system and its security,” Beam said. “It’s certainly needed, and there is money in the bond issue for the cost.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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