Recently, the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran (SATF-CSP, Corcoran), where I reside, and California State Prison-Corcoran (CSP-Corcoran) both implemented the use of body cameras and security cameras.
Though the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has had security cameras installed on its buses for some time, correctional officers at both SATF-CSP, Corcoran and CSP-Corcoran started wearing body cameras in August 2021. Both facilities installed additional security cameras in their buildings in October.
The move follows an expanded mandate by a federal court requiring CDCR officers to wear body cameras after a lawsuit revealed that corrections officers at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego physically assaulted inmates with disabilities.
In July, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a state budget that included $90.6 million to install fixed security cameras and body cameras at a total of six state prisons.
I believe that the implementation of body cameras and security cameras can be an asset to both staff and inmates in prison systems.
Knowing that there are cameras could help inmates be more conscious of their daily conduct behind prison walls. The visual proof of interactions between inmates and prison staff could prevent inmates from being falsely accused of misconduct they did not commit and could make the prison population, particularly those who are mentally ill, feel secure and less fearful of abuse and assault at the hands of staff.
The installation of body and security cameras could also discourage or prevent staff from taking inappropriate action against inmates.
Property loss, an ongoing problem, particularly for inmates with mental illness, might be less of a problem with cameras recording interactions, too. Inmates, who get moved to crisis beds because of their suicidal thoughts often lose their property, which might get lost in the shuffle or stolen if left unattended (incidentally, general population inmates also lose their property often when they are moved).
I estimate that about 100 correctional officers from SATF-CSP, Corcoran and CSP-Corcoran prisons have quit coming to work in protest of having to wear body cameras. Overall, I believe that the cameras are there to protect everyone’s safety and the integrity of the prisons.
(Additional reporting by PJP Team)
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.