Grayson County Jailer Darwin Dennison touts attributes of Detention Center
The following is a statement from Grayson County Jailer Darwin Dennison on technology upgrades made at the Grayson County Detention Center, as well as the financial stability of the facility:
Thanks to a fiscally conservative approach and a system that weighs costs against benefits, Jailer Darwin Dennison would like to report that the Grayson County Detention Center is on the best financial footing in its history. This approach provided the detention center administration with means to tackle some important new projects while maintaining a cash reserve that can be used in case of emergency.
“The most important thing to the voters of Grayson County has always been that the detention center be run in a safe and responsible manner,” says Dennison. “I’m very proud of the fact that we have expanded and improved our operations while keeping costs under control. It hasn’t been easy but we have an experienced staff that knows how to run our facilities efficiently and effectively.”
Part of the expanded and improved operations Dennison is talking about is a complete overhaul of the detention center’s computer network and video surveillance systems. All three facilities will benefit from a new 48 terabyte disc array that will store video captured by surveillance cameras located throughout each facility The new system, expected to be online by the end of February, will store video for up to seven years and has a failsafe system that prevents interruptions in coverage. The system also incorporates a remote viewing feature which allows approved staff members to log on and view detention center surveillance cameras from anywhere they have an internet connection.
These are just the latest in a series of projects that have made the Grayson County Detention Center a model for others in the state. The first was a new control room system that was installed in 2008. The control room upgrade alone cost nearly $100,000.00. Upgrading the video surveillance system has been an ongoing process, as new video cameras have been added on a continuous basis and old ones have been replaced, bringing the total number of cameras in the main facility to 130. A recent independent review of detention center systems found that they met or exceeded government standards for security.
In the last couple of years, the detention center began the transition to a paperless system, installed wireless internet through the main facility and bought two new servers to handle digital traffic more efficiently In late 2013, the agency became the first in the state to become a part of the National Videoconferencing Bridge, a federal system that allows judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, investigators and others to conduct court business and interviews over a secure videoconferencing link.
The detention center, working with federal authorities, helped build the system that could potentially serve every local facility in the United States, streamlining court proceedings and preventing unnecessary transports of prisoners outside of secure facilities.
The remarkable thing about these upgrades, and the detention center itself, is the fact that the citizens of Grayson County don’t contribute a single dime in local tax money to have top-notch facilities in their community. While there are other detention centers in the state that generate enough revenue to pay for the operations of their facilities, Grayson County is currently the only one that covers its operational budget and makes its own bond payment. Being the only completely self-supporting detention center in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a source of pride for the staff.
“There is still 10 years left to pay on the bond that was issued when the new facility was built. That amounts to $60,000.00 a month, more than $700,000.00 a year, that we have to come up with in addition to operational costs, salaries, insurance and all the other expenses that come with running a detention center the size of ours,” said Dennison. “But we pay our own way and then some. I think most people would be shocked if they knew just how much the Grayson County Detention Center contributes, both monetarily and in manpower and services, to the good of county government and our community.”
The detention center currently has a $1.5 million carry-over, money in the bank to cover operational costs in the event that there is a short-term disruption in the revenue stream due to a natural disaster, government shutdown or other unforeseeable revenue issue.
“When I came into office, there was $300,000.00 in the bank to cover costs in the first couple of months,” according to Dennison. “Those were lean times. But we have been disciplined about how we spend money and it has paid off. That $1.5 million is a cushion that can carry us through for a couple of months if something unexpected happens. Other counties do not have that advantage.”
One thing that hasn’t changed at the Grayson County Detention Center is its dependence on federal contracts to keep running.
“Our contracts with the US Marshals, ICE, the federal Bureau of Prisons and the state of Kentucky are the bread-and-butter of our operation,” said Dennison. “Our staff has an incredible relationship with these folks and they trust us to operate in the proper way. We continue to provide a great service that no one in this part of the country can match. This detention center would not be able to function as it does now without those relationships in place.”