Henrico Jail $2.8 million camera system adds electronic “eyes and ears”

Posted at 12:09 AM, Oct 11, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-11 00:09:35-04

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)--Have you or a loved one ever gotten into trouble? Maybe thrown in jail for a temporary or even a long-term visit? You might be surprised to learn just what goes on “inside.”

A local sheriff says he's upgrading his jail to make sure his inmates and employees are safe.

In years past, if a fight broke out in jail, it would take deputies days, sometimes weeks, to investigate.  But now, similar to the “booth review” in the NFL, administrators can go right to the tape, thanks to an elaborate system of cameras at the Henrico County Jail.

“It's invaluable," said Sheriff Mike Wade, who said the thirty-year-old system they had in place, simply wasn't up to par.  "The technology we had here was 1980 technology.  It was a DOS-based system and it was irreparable."

The nearly five-year long and $2.8 million capital improvement project for new surveillance systems at Henrico Jail East and West are almost complete.

Wade says with more electronic eyes - over 200 now- it's opened his eyes to every aspect of life in the County Jail.

“We've already made charges on a number of fights, based on what we saw on tape,” he said.  “We had an inmate make an accusation against a deputy that was totally false."

Wade says video also showed a deputy disregarding a policy of not screaming at inmates to wake up during the early morning hours.

And what is possibly the most infamous caught on tape moment so far involved peanut butter.

“I just happened to look up and see the inmate stowing away peanut butter packets," Wade said.  "It's 66 cents a pack." 

And that means it was contraband.  The episode cost the inmate his job in the galley and left him no chance to earn time off his sentence for good behavior.  In the video another inmate actually pointed out to him that “Big Brother” was watching.

Some inmates told us they don't like the new system of cameras.  “They suck,” said one.  “Because we can't do the things we are not supposed to be doing."

The packets of peanut butter have monetary value in jailhouse day rooms and can be traded for a number of things.

The Henrico Jail used to house 645 inmates , but now has nearly double that with the same amount of deputies.  Wade says the cameras add extra eyes and ears.