"The PIPE is a great way to keep people honest and achieve our policy
and procedural objectives. It is an excellent resource for litigation."
We recently spoke with Robert Cooley of the Branchville Correctional Facility in Tell City, Indiana. Robert
is the Physical Plant Director at this Level Two facility which houses 1,000 inmates.
What can you tell us about your facility?
The Branchville Correctional Facility is a Level Two security facility. Level Two security means that it is a medium security
prison. We house 1,000 inmates here at Branchville. The facility is located within the Hoosier National Forest. This makes
it very secluded. We encompass about 130 acres. The physical plant consists of approximately 40 buildings. It is basically
a small city! We have everything here. Our education program is designed to help offenders achieve at minimum, a chance
to earn a GED. We also have a program with Oakland City College, so they can pursue any number of college degrees. We also
offer technical degrees in welding, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and culinary arts. The vocational training
is optional, however. The success rate is pretty high, but it is often because they get time cut for successfully completing
their educational goals.
Can you tell us the history behind the prison?
Branchville was originally built and opened by the U.S. Job Corp Service. When the Job Corp folded, back in the late 1960's,
they abandoned the buildings. There were seven buildings here at that time. Several years later Purdue University bought
it as an Agricultural Satellite. They ran it for about four years before abandoning the site. Then, the Department of Corrections
picked it up in 1982. It belonged to the Federal Government at the time. The Branchville Correctional Facility is now state-owned.
What is your role with the Branchville Correctional Facility?
I am the Physical Plant Director, which is basically the Facility Manager. My division is responsible for physical security,
and electronic security systems, in-house design and construction, as well as all maintenance activities and insuring uninterrupted
utility service. There is always something to do!
What are the security issues that you face?
The number one priority for any prison facility is custody and control of offenders. It does not matter if you are a secretary,
physical plant director, or correctional officer, that is your number one job. After that, you get into your own specific
discipline or area of responsibility.
How many officers are there?
We have a total staff of 380. This includes administrative support, kitchen and maintenance staff. Of those, approximately
200 are correctional officers.
What was The PIPE originally purchased for?
My main idea for The PIPE was to be used in a brand new Segregation Unit. This was a maximum-security
housing unit within our own facility. In order to comply with American Correctional Association standards, and by our own
internal Department of Corrections procedures, we are required to visually verify each offender in segregated housing once
an hour. In this environment, there is no way to be certain that the officer did that. So, I have mounted the button right
next to the view port on each door. The officer has to walk up to the door to activate a button, so I can figure that they
will look in the cell. That was my thought behind The PIPE. So, I investigated it and decided
to go with your Guard1 System. This is a way to keep people honest and achieve our policy and procedural objectives.
Was the Segregation Unit in place before you started using The PIPE?
No, I started investigating The PIPE back when this unit was still being designed. I saw
this problem coming so I wanted a program in place to help assure we would meet our policy and procedures. It is an excellent
resource for litigation. If anything happens to an offender while in our custody, we need to prove who saw him last and
what time it was. This system allows me to pull that information up off the computer and no one can question it. The reports
say who was on a tour, who had The PIPE, and what time and day it was. It takes a lot of
the questions away.
Is that the only place you use The PIPE?
Right now we are using four PIPEs. Another area where we use it is on our mobile patrol. We have about 30 buttons on this
tour. They are required to make the rounds at the change of a shift, and then twice during a shift. Whenever there is heavy
movement of offenders, these mobile patrols are stationary. They are positioned in an area we feel is at highest risk. We
also have people on roaming foot patrols inside the facility. These are sergeants, lieutenants, and officers.
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