IMPERIUM Jail Control System

Jail Security Simplified

Jun 29 2023

This article was originally published in the 'Missouri Jails' magazine's Summer 2023 issue.

Gone are the days when the sheriff would head out on horseback to round up an outlaw, then transport him back to jail where he’d be held in a padlocked cell with the key to freedom hanging just out of reach on a big round ring.

While today some of the smallest, most rural county jails may still open cell doors with keys, most employ some form of electronic door lock. Sheriffs who partner with Electronic Contracting Company (ECC) to implement the IMPERIUM™ Jail Control System can control not only door locks, but also nearly every aspect of the jail - with just
the touch of a fingertip.

Imperium’s function buttons provide:

  • Locking & unlocking of doors
  • Lockdown ability
  • Intercom control
  • Paging control
  • Audio monitoring
  • Lighting control
  • Water control
  • Telephone control
  • Power outlet control

Logan Hinnant, southern regional manager for ECC, said the beauty of the Imperium system is that it is custom designed to fit the exact needs – and budget – of each jail, and it can be implemented in stages.

“We start by asking sheriffs and jail administrators how they want their jail to operate. Because we bring a long history of working with jails, we can offer suggestions on how to modernize their systems and how to better handle the workflow to make things run more smoothly, but it’s not ‘all or nothing.’ In some facilities they only want to handle doors and intercoms,” he said.

Grundy County Sheriff Rodney Herring, who has been partnering with ECC for nearly 15 years, said he never dreamed technology could make such a difference.

“We were moving out of a 115-year-old jail that had no electronic controls whatsoever, so when we moved into our new detention center in 2008, ECC completely transformed the way we worked. I had never seen or experienced anything like it,” Sheriff Herring said. “In the old jail, our cells did have padlocks on the doors. Suddenly, we could not just open and close doors from a touch screen, we could look at the screen and tell if our entire facility was secure.”

He said that they have since integrated their closed-circuit TV and intercoms so they can monitor as well as communicate with inmates anywhere in the facility; they upgraded the server that stores all the jail information; and they moved to a 50-inch screen that allows them to see the entire floorplan of the jail on one screen. With the County Jail Maintenance and Improvements grant money recently made available, Sheriff Herring plans to upgrade from analog to digital cameras, which will provide a clearer picture, and replace intercom speakers to get a clearer sound.

“The ability of the system is pretty amazing – and it was easy to learn. Our staff picked it up quickly,” he said.

Hinnant said that, like Sheriff Herring, most of the sheriffs they work with are “blown away by how easy it is.”

In part, it’s because their programmers use the same color palettes and types of icons seen on smartphones. That makes learning how to operate the system a “natural and intuitive process.”

“Usually within 20 to 30 minutes, someone who has never done anything like this before can operate and completely control a jail, which is huge for sheriffs because they can have two people in the command center as opposed to four,” he said. “In smaller jails, when 911 dispatch is handled by the jail, the dispatcher can actually run dispatch and the jail. During the day, when there’s a lot more movement and a lot more activity, you might have a jail operator, but from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the person working dispatch can control the jail as well, so sheriffs will only need to have one person in the control room at any given time.”

The simplicity of the IMPERIUM system isn’t only in its interfaces but extends into the hardware selection as well. For decades integrators have used very complicated PLC circuits and devices to control the functions in a jail. They were the golden standard, no matter the size of the facility. But this method is very complex, expensive, and labor-intensive. It can also add hundreds (or even thousands) of potential failure points, which is a considerable risk that correctional facilities can’t afford to take. So instead, ECC utilizes specific hardware manufactured and designed for detention environments. This approach to system design dramatically reduces the potential points of failure and the amount of onsite effort it takes to upgrade an existing jail with IMPERIUM.

Exhaust fans and fire alarm systems can also be integrated, as can technology in media and interview rooms. “We can even provide a simple way to stream video – whether Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms,” Hinnant said. “A lot of our technology ties together. We always have facilities that want things done differently and we can certainly accommodate them. We just finished one county where the sheriff didn’t want the red to be quite so bright and it took us about 30 seconds to change that. Every single thing about our platform is 100 percent customizable to each individual environment.”

Hinnant said they offer a package that includes remote support and unlimited training after installation because of the high turnover rate in corrections, “and we have employees, installers, and service technicians – dedicated crews that do nothing but jails – in Missouri. We currently have two offices – one in Kansas City and one in Springfield – but we run 80 percent of all jail projects out of our Springfield office so we can rapidly address any needs after the install.”

ECC’s robust and stable IMPERIUM platform, coupled with its commitment to customers after project completion, has enabled ECC to be awarded the prestigious National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) security contract nationwide. This contract makes it easier for Missouri Sheriffs and County Officials to upgrade their systems for the modern demands of life, safety, and functionality in corrections facilities.

By Nancy Zoellner