NewsNational News


More states weighing rules that would require prison guards to wear body cameras

Body Cameras
Posted at 2:07 PM, Nov 26, 2021

A growing number of state prison systems will soon require guards to wear body cameras or are considering laws that would put such requirements in place.

Prison systems hope the body cameras will help reduce violence and hold both inmates and guards accountable.

One skeptical group is the union for prison guards in Ohio. They think funding should go toward hiring more guards.

Another pushback is that prisons already have many stationary cameras in place.

"There are blind spots in prisons, but that's something body cameras can improve," said Bryce Peterson, who studies corrections and policing. "But, more so than these blind spots, is there's just spots that where a video surveillance system doesn't seem to be very clear. So it's not necessarily a blind spot, but it's still like a an obscure spot."

Peterson says body cameras would give a different point of view compared to a stationary camera. A body camera could also provide better video and audio quality.

But Brittany Cunningham, who also studies justice and policing, says both types of cameras could provide value in prison, and both cameras have the potential to provide an element that's currently missing.

"It will increase the expectation of transparency in correctional facilities," she said. "Right now, there is an expectation in law enforcement to be very transparent; that we release body-worn camera video, that we release what's going on when when officers respond to incidents. And that's an expectation that I think is not there right now, in prisons or any correctional facility."

Peterson agrees that the potential for scrutiny and the "expectation of transparency" could be the most significant benefits of body cameras in prisons. He says there isn't yet data on use-of-force incidents in prisons because they're not tracked the same way as policing.

He believes body cameras might be helpful when it comes to assaults against staff members, or when staff members use unnecessary force against inmates. He adds that prison systems need to be realistic about body camera limitations, and more research is still required.

Cunningham stresses that in order to make body cameras effective, there needs to be appropriate policies and training in place.

Installing body cameras in prisons wouldn't be cheap. The system installed in New York state cost taxpayers more than $4 million and includes 2,5000 body-worn cameras.