Video Surveillance Standards For Jails & Prisons, About To Get Trunkslammed

Do they exist? I am trying to justify a system I designed for a county jail and i am going up against a low end integrator thinking he is going to provide 19 some 2MP cameras on 5TB of hard drive and expect the video to last 30 days. I was under the impression that video needed to be recorded at minimum 15 FPS (30 in most cases) and continuose recording be used. But searching the depths of my home states standards and the bounty of general standards of the Federal Government, I am only coming up with vague descriptions, that are up for just about any interpretation. Obviously I am about to get Trunk Slammed here on this one unless I can find some cold hard facts to back up my claims. My customer is clueless and thinks he is getting a cadillac system for the price of a Yugo. Any help would be much appreciated.

My state (Washington) has developed a standard for video in state detention facilities Security Video System Standards. Not sure if this can be used to make your case, but it should be of interest anyhow.

By the way, my experience has shown me that telling a potential client "Your wrong, and here's the published standard to prove it" approach is rarely successful. It's much more helpful to gently educate the client by asking questions and showing examples ("here's what 5 FPS looks like, and here's what 15 FPS looks like. Which do you think would best meet your needs?")

I had a city jail client that was recording video at a low frame rate (4 FPS I think). There was a brawl in the jail one night and a police officer and detainee got into a fight resulting in injury to the detainee. The recorded video showed the officer punching the detainee, but nothing showing the detainee punching the officer. The officer claimed that the detainee's punch occurred between video frames and that is the reason there was no recording of it. Hmm...

In any case, a short time later, the city called me and asked me to do a study of what it would take to record all cameras at 30 FPS, and wanted video storage for up to five years. It ended up being a $1.5 million project and, to my knowledge, was never implemented.

Agree with this. Calculate the bandwidth and storage space required to save 19 cameras at 15 frames. Calculate the frame rate required to fit 30 days worth of video on 5TB. Show two clips and say "this is what my system will look like. This is what my competitor's system will look like. Any questions?" Then drop the mic like a boss as the crowd gasps in awe.

Michael, thanks!

A, what else has the trunkslammer told the county jail official? Is it simply that 5TB is enough for 19 cameras or is he selling them super cheap cameras or?

Well rough numbers... if he caps the bitrates at, say, 1Mbps CBR for each camera... that would be 19Mbps total, or 2.375MB/second... 142.5MB/minute, 8.55GB/hr, 205GB/day... that gets you about 6.156TB for 30 days.

So it's close, potentially... although 1080p at 15fps, crushed down to 1Mbps, won't look very good. If hard numbers won't sell them, you could always record some video with those specs and tell them, "this is what it will have to look like to get 30 days."

Of course, I'm curious what they're doing to reach 5TB, and if it's got any redundancy. First time crucial video is lost to a drive failure, they'll regret cheaping out.


I would like to add to your comment.

You mentioned that the image will not look good. I agree given the low BW for the pixel count needed to stay close to a 5TB 'usable' size.

Perhaps 'A' can take some info from this tutorial Video Quality and educate the customer.

I certaily hope they will also use some form of a RAID array to protect the data instead of a single 5TB HDD. A two drive RAID1 would need two 6TB drives to support appx 5.6TB usable space. If the 'slammer' is proposing a single 5TB HDD.... then the usable space is appx 4.6TB.

The customer has to decide how much detail he needs to see in his images to satisfy his job requirements. They also need to decide how they want to protect the video data as well.

Educating the customer is something that the better integrators do.... and I would wager that the slammers do NOT and prey on the price difference to win over the unsuspecting user.

You could also match the competing bid AND recommend against it by educating the client with specific non technical explanations... This way if they insist on going with a poorly designed system based on pragmatic needs, you still have a way to compete...

OP, please don't do this. Losing the bid is much better than doing a bad job on purpose. From a purely practical standpoint, no one is going to remember or care how much you warned them when the system ends up sucking, they're just going to remember who installed it and how much it sucks.

Do you have experence with jails & prisons? If so I would use that to your advatage.

Actually I have quite a bit of first hand experience, but I find it best not to mention it. ;)

Yea I would keep the personal experence off the table :) but I would think if you have any experence deploying solutions in jails & prisons that would be something that would help sway the customer your way. In my experence dealing with jails & prisons they wouldn't even consider an intergrater without experence in this vertical.

Educating a customer only works if they are willing to give the time and effort to be educated. Alan and Ari give two opposing suggestions that are both bad and good at the same time.

But the worst mistake you can make is disqualify yourself with bad information. Don't always assume legislated minimum framerates and quality just because it seems like an obviously good idea. If anything, state your framerates, continuous or motion based recording parameters, on paper with the disclaimer that the customer is responsible for knowing if this meets their legally mandated minimum requirements.

Or, like Ari says, walk away because a won job can be a loss in reputation and headaches because it is true what he says, no one remembers they asked for crap, they just want to complain they got crap.

Good luck. This is why we rarely participate in municipal bids.

Thanks all for the advice, I have 4 jails that I have done in the past, and every one of them was happy campers when we got done with them. The Trunk Slammers are actually proving a RAID solution that nets out to 5TB, which is going to leave them a little shy on their camera counts, i also forgot to mention there is also 52 analog cameras going to be encoded, so the trunk slammers are quoting 19 2MP IP cameras, and encoding 52 analog cameras, all on a 5TB NVR. I agree that going to a customer with a bunch of rules and specs is not the best approach, but i had to justify why I quoted what I did.

But i agree education and backing up your design with the hard facts is good, and I plan to go that route, was just wondering if there was a set standards from a jail or prison organization that would serve as good reference.

I found this. It seems pretty good. The technology is a bit dated- this was written two and a half years ago- but it doesn't spend much time on technology. Most of it is about general principles.

Performance-basis design is always best.

nets out to 5TB, which is going to leave them a little shy on their camera counts

Keeping in mind that those rough numbers assume a bitrate of 1Mbps, which is pretty low for 2MP/15fps - increase accordingly if they want to get better quality by going to 2 or 4Mbps.

...there is also 52 analog cameras going to be encoded, so the trunk slammers are quoting 19 2MP IP cameras, and encoding 52 analog cameras, all on a 5TB NVR

Well that changes things quite a bit. Assuming you're encoding at 4CIF, or around .335MP... 1/6 the resolution of your 2MP cameras, further assuming a similar compression/quality level, add another 9-or-so cameras' worth of recording... in other words, increase your storage requirements by around 50%.

ASSUMING similar lousy quality settings, that is. Again, increase storage accordingly if you want to bump up bitrates to take proper advantage.

The other question is whether this NVR will actually support 71 cameras... most I've seen of this type go in increments of 4/8/16/32/64, maxing out at 64.

Thanks Ari, I did see that as Michael had posted that earlier, and thank you both for the info and advise as its a good start, I appreciate the groups assistance. It brings a good point to mind that this industry we are in is still a wild west in terms of regulations and standards. I have dug deep into my states book of standards, reached out to my prison guard buddies to reach into their SOP's and to my disbelief there is only vauge references down the lines of keep your CCTV system working, rotate your tapes, etc. So not a lot of info out there, which means i get a little more creative and arm my sales rep with the video proof he needs based on "the other guys system design"

Forgot it had been posted already.

I can confirm there's little out there in the way of formal regulations.

However I found a couple things that could be persuasive, used in the right context. One is from the reported accounts of the trial of a big-time heroin dealer, where the "very slow" frame-rate caused prosecutorial problems:

The non-jury court viewed CCTV footage of an object being thrown on to a landing at Portlaoise prison during the garda search of the accused man’s cell. An enhanced version of the CCTV footage was also shown to the court, which telecommunications technician Joe O’Sullivan told Mr O’Kelly showed a white line appearing close to a wall opposite Rattigan’s cell before an object comes in to view on the prison landing.

However, Mr O’Sullivan told counsel for the defence, Mr Brendan Grehan SC, that he could not see anything coming out of the accused man’s cell door from the footage. He told Mr Grehan he could “only guess” the object in the footage was travelling at such a high velocity that it was not captured on the prison CCTV system, which he said filmed at a “very slow” frame rate of five to six frames per second.

The other is a "whitish" paper from Hendon on Video Forensics:

Subjects of an investigation are rarely at a standstill. They are moving away in cars, running away from the scene, shooting, stabbing, stealing and dropping evidence—all in a very quick manner. That is why identifying events in motion is essential for video forensics.

Even with progressive scan technology, a sufficiently high frame rate is necessary for forensic analysis of video of scenes involving objects or people in motion. It is critical that you have enough frames of the incident to accurately ascertain whether an object was tossed by an individual or which suspect actually used the weapon. If a vehicle is spotted fleeing, did you get a frame showing the suspect in the vehicle as it turned and sped off? Or, did you capture a frame that clearly showed a suspect’s tattoo or other identifying artifact? Having enough frames of the event for in-depth forensic analysis can break a case wide open and lead to the actual perpetrator being brought to justice swiftly.

Ironically, it is much easier to find casino framerate regulations:

6. All surveillance provided within the gaming salon shall allow for 24-hour per day, seven day a week remote viewing from the offices of the board. Such remote viewing must be delivered in real time and at a minimum of 30 frames per second.

Probably because public safety is one thing, but trying to peek at the hole card is another altogether...

Good Luck!