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  • Prison tower guards, an American staple, disappear

    CAMP HILL, Pa. – In the movies, it's the prison guard perched in the perimeter tower who spots the escaped prisoner and sounds the alarm. In reality, video cameras and electrified fences are replacing the watchful, pacing corrections officer.
    As prisons across the country look to reduce manpower and cut costs, those considering unstaffing towers in favor of monitored cameras and sensors are drawing the ire of unions who say officers -- and prisoners -- are being put in danger.
    "No camera has ever stopped someone from being beaten up," said Ed McConnell, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association. "... When you need help, a man with a gun does it. ... A camera doesn't help you."
    Pennsylvania is evaluating whether it needs officers constantly on tower duty, saying it could save nearly $5 million a year by joining the ranks of states including Ohio, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Florida and others that have made similar moves.

    "They've become pretty much obsolete," John K. Murray, superintendent of the Camp Hill prison in central Pennsylvania, said of towers. "Towers are kind of the dinosaur way of doing our business."
    Pennsylvania corrections officers already monitor cameras inside prisons. The projected savings would come from a reduction in overtime, because there would be more officers inside the prison to help fill in when others are out sick or on vacation.
    "It would be a better use of our resources to take them out of the towers and put them inside the institutions," department spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said.
    Only five of 27 state facilities even have perimeter towers because of changes in prison design; Pennsylvania hasn't built a prison with them since the 1960s. The Corrections Department hopes to have those changes in place by June.
    In some states, the tower guards are long gone at most prisons. Connecticut started reducing tower staffing in the mid-1990s and now has only two prisons that staff towers, and even then only during selected times, said Andrius Banevicius, a spokesman for the Connecticut Correction Department.
    The California corrections agency started taking officers out of prison towers in 1993, a year after it started installing lethal electric fences. The move saved $70 million a year in staff costs, spokeswoman Terry Thornton said.
    The unions representing corrections officers argue that unmanning towers removes important sets of human eyes — eyes that don't lose power and eyes that have access to weapons in the event of a riot or other emergency.
    "They're talking about taking away an important aspect of public safety," McConnell said, noting that officers in the towers are especially important during times of unrest.
    In Pennsylvania, some prisons may decide to keep officers in towers while inmates are in the yard or being moved around, McNaughton said.
    At Camp Hill, the site of riots in October 1989 that hurt 120 officers and inmates and severely damaged much of the prison, the prison has bolstered security in recent years.
    The prison has more than 50 surveillance cameras, new razor wire, two separate fences (the tops of which have been raised from 12 to 14 feet) and an armed perimeter officer who patrols the border 24-7. The last escape at the prison, which has more than 500 officers and about 3,450 inmates, was in the mid-1980s.
    From a historical standpoint, U.S. prisons really started manning towers only late in the 19th century as prisoners became more enterprising.
    And while Hollywood may glorify them as the last line of defense, many say that's simply not the case in a high-tech world.
    "There's a lot of complacency when it comes to those tower posts," Murray said. "The tendency is to not see as much as you should see."
    Life is what you make of it

  • #2
    I wouldn't hold your breath.

    7 yrs ago we put up a $1 million dollar high tech fence (not a kill fence)
    The towers were going away.

    The fence works when it wants, alarms when it wants, and is worth about a penny.

    Our towers are still in place.
    Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

    My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

    Comment


    • #3
      Eyes that don't loose power...? I don't know about that.

      Comment


      • #4
        The women's prison in our state, yes only one, doesn't have tower guards anymore, nor are there any lethal weapons there anymore. I'm surprised it still has a fence.
        Sometimes, doing the right thing means p***ing off the bosses.

        "And shepherds we shall be, for thee my lord for thee."

        Originally posted by dontknowwhy
        I still think troopers and deputies who work in the middle of no where with essentially no back up are the 'men among men' of the LEO world.
        Originally posted by weinerdog2000
        as far as your social experiment, if we cant film you then you cant film us, we will arrest you for obstruction of our freedom.

        Comment


        • #5
          No lethal weapons at a prison just sounds like a bad idea all around.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by LINY View Post
            No lethal weapons at a prison just sounds like a bad idea all around.
            Not unheard of. Not common but many minimum custody institutions don't have them on site. Our minimum camp has a couple handguns and shotguns stored in the local PD in case of something big, but nothing on site.

            a lot of new construction facilities do not have towers either. Designed with double or triple fences and a perimeter road with a patrol. Some have dogs between the fences. (that is better than a tower)
            Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

            My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

            Comment


            • #7

              I like the prison setup in the movie "Deadlock" with Rutger Hauer (one of the best 'bad guys' ever in Hollywood). They did not need fences or towers, since the prisoners also served duty unwillingly as guards.


              Prisoners were each affixed with an explosive-laden collar and were teamed electronically to another prisoner - but nobody knew who their 'partner' was. As soon as someone got near the perimeter, both his collar and that of his partner would beep and light up. Stepping beyond the boundary caused both prisoners to have their heads explode.

              I don't think the prison guard's union would like such a system; nor would the ACLU.....but as a taxpayer, I find it appealing.


              The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

              The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

              ------------------------------------------------

              "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

              Comment


              • #8
                That could be a serious problem. In Illinois, Max joints, prison guards are allowed to fire warning shots. When I worked Pontiac warning shots were fired on a weekly basis and it really saved the rear ends of co's. It did me on a couple occasions.
                Pontiac went on permanent lockdown back in 96 because a catwalk officer shot and killed a latin king who came after a sergeant with a shank.

                It was a great comfort knowing that rifle barrel was following me at tense times when I walked the gallery.
                Prov 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by pujolsfan146 View Post
                  That could be a serious problem. In Illinois, Max joints, prison guards are allowed to fire warning shots. When I worked Pontiac warning shots were fired on a weekly basis and it really saved the rear ends of co's. It did me on a couple occasions.
                  Pontiac went on permanent lockdown back in 96 because a catwalk officer shot and killed a latin king who came after a sergeant with a shank.

                  It was a great comfort knowing that rifle barrel was following me at tense times when I walked the gallery.
                  YUP

                  The only way we can have an open rec yard with up to 800 people out on the yard at one time is due to the towers. The middle tower..............watches EVERYTHING and you would be surprised how many times they radio info to the officers on the ground.

                  When something happens..............our general orders are for the tower officers to step out of the tower AR-15 or shotgun at port arms depending on the situation.

                  That usually get the dolts attention. We haven't had a shot fired in the 30 yrs I have worked here.............................but you can not deny the presence is a deterrent.
                  Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                  My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    http://forums.officer.com/forums/sho...post23sd222286
                    Last edited by Nobody; 04-27-2010, 09:26 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      How about a woman's prison (multiple security levels) with NO walls, in the middle of a residential area, next to an elementary school, in an outer ring suburb? And the neighbors don't mind.

                      As profiled by "The Daily Show":

                      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tu...6/uncaged-heat

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nobody View Post
                        you mean a camera pointing at them isn't the same as a CO with a high powered rifle?
                        But it costs less



                        They tried to sell it to the union as "freeing up" officers to be on the ground to actually deal with inmates.

                        Even the union leaders didn't bite.................anyone who has done ANY time inside the walls of a prison with towers think the tower officers are next to god..........................and HOPE they get enough practice with the AR's...


                        There are a couple at my instituiton that I hope NEVER have to fire to save me----------the chances of hitting me is too great Of course there might be a couple that would aim for me on purpose..........................but they are in Tarrant County
                        Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                        My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          http://forums.officer.com/forums/sho...post23sd222286
                          Last edited by Nobody; 04-27-2010, 09:26 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I've been in the yard twice when shots were fired (once posted in the yard, once just as I responded to the incident) and 3 or 4 times when cn was deployed.

                            I preferred the gas, but it took a few more minutes to gain control of the situations where as the crack of the AR made them hit the ground right away.

                            Our towers aren't going anywhere, they are dumping more money into modernizing them now.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I work at the newest prison in CA. We have perimeter towers, but they are unmanned. We have a LETHAL electrified fence. The towers are there for emergencies. We also have an armed officer who drives around the prison.

                              Comment

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