High-tech security at new jail

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Butler County-born electrical engineer’s company has established a nationwide reputation for its high-tech security systems.

Tim Skipper of Montgomery Technology Inc. of Greenville, shared details of his company with members of the Greenville Lions Club Monday.

MTI, which has 35 employees, provided the security system for the new Butler County Correction Facility.

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From a mainframe computer in a secure area inside the facility, staff is able to control the locking and unlocking jail cells, lights and security cameras and more.

“In the old jail, the only way to evacuate in the case of an emergency was to unlock each cell with a key, cell by bell. Thank goodness, there was never a fire or the emergency where a quick exit would be needed – now inmates can be evacuated in a timely manner if need be,” Skipper explained.

With the facility’s new video visitation system, prisoners can see and speak to loved ones from the day room while visitors remain in the lobby.

“One thing about this new system – it’s going to be awfully hard for anyone to poke contraband down one of these wires,” Skipper said.

Because the video visitation system is network-based, other facilities are using it to save family members long trips.

“A facility in Baldwin, Michigan, has contracted to take hundreds of prisoners from California and house them in Michigan. With our video visitation system, the folks back in California can visit with the prisoners in Michigan via the Internet,” Skipper said.

“Right now, we are selling more of the visitation systems than the control systems nationwide. We are also looking at this type of system for our courthouse, which would allow arraignments, lawyer visits and so forth to take place with physically having to go the jail.”

When asked if the system was likely to be hacked into, Skipper said it was theoretically possible, but very unlikely.

“Messaging between all devices is encrypted; our scheme is one that is not published anywhere else. It is the most significant part of our security system,” he said.

In case of a power failure, all equipment goes on a standby battery for up to 30 minutes, even though the generator is set to kick in after only seconds.

“And I assure you, the locks stay locked in there,” Skipper said.

In reference to the possibility of eavesdropping on a private conversation between lawyer and client, the engineer said security measures were in place to block anyone else from monitoring or recording the proceedings.

Skipper’s two sons, Nathan, a software engineer and Patrick, an electrical engineer, both work with their dad at MTI.

“Business has been extremely good and I feel blessed to have these two boys working with us,” Skipper said.

While the company currently has a number of projects across the country on its books, the owner said he expects to see an economic downturn in the first quarter of 2009.

“We are planning to build a new facility in the Industrial Park Complex. However, we are going to hold off on that until we see how that first quarter goes,” Skipper said.