Guards were startled Wednesday at Death Row in the Idaho State Penitentiary when an inmate's cell door suddenly popped open.
It was the latest in a long series of "glitches" in a sophisticated new door-locking and cell control system, Corrections Director Dick Vernon said.Vernon told a state board that because of incidents like that, the state's going to enter into a maintenance contract with the system's installer, Honeywell, for $100,000 to $115,000 per year.
Council members were a little dubious about committing the state to paying $100,000-plus per year for a system that cost about $750,000 to install.
"Something's got to be wrong with it,"said Leo Knudsen, a member of the Permanent Building Fund Council. "Maybe it's too sophisticated."
A new electronic security system was installed at Idaho's maximum security prison south of Boise. Vernon said it is a good system, but it has some normal "quirks."
For a time, prison officials were kept hopping after inmates discovered they could short out their call buttons to make the doors open. Honeywell, which installed the system, came back and made extensive revisions.
Vernon said sophisticated electronic locking systems are relatively new in prisons. He said they allow for less staff to supervise the inmates.
Particularly with Death Row inmates, it's desirable to allow as little physical contact as possible between inmates and guards, Vernon said.