Automated security system fails at St. Joseph County Jail, forcing staff to manually unlock doors

Power problems are causing some major headaches at the St. Joseph County Jail.

The jail lost control of its automated locking system on Monday night. Problems began coincidentally about the same time the storms came through on Monday night.

All of the doors are operated through a master control tower and switches to open and close the doors malfunctioned a week ago. The doors automatically default to a lock position. However without the automated system a key is needed to unlock a door.

Basically it takes the jail back 30 to 40 years ago when all doors were opened with a key. These days security is automated and jails use less staff.

So guards are working some overtime. Plus inmates have had limited access to non-essential activities like visitation last weekend.

St. Joseph County Police Chief Tim Decker says, “The frustrating thing is as little as two hours ago everything was working. It may work for a matter of a few hours and it may work for a matter of a few minutes and then different areas will go down.”

Decker says security remains tight yet the inconsistencies among the system are inconvenient.

Technicians from the company's security system have been at the jail working on the problem since Wednesday. The system was selected well before the jail was opened 12 years ago.

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