The added value of bodycams in prisons

Years of bodycam pilots in various countries, as well as research in prisons have found positive results in terms of their added value, and the perception of the correctional officers (CO) who use them. Generally bodycams are seen as a useful addition to the toolkit of the CO, as bodycams capture objective evidence that can be used to defend employee actions, prosecute offenders and provide excellent training and evaluation materials.

Bodycams ZEPCAM round below

With countries such as the United States, England, Wales, Australia, New Zeeland and China and the Netherlands piloting and implementing bodycam solutions in their prison systems, the time is ripe for further expansions of bodycam solutions in the prison system. Through needed bodycam technology prisons can improve the protective measures in place, as well as provide needed evidence and training tools to face the future.

“If we don’t have body-worn cameras . . . we’re not advancing as an industry and as a correctional agency. We’ve got to move with the times, and we’ve got to improve our performances, and we’ve got to improve our safety and security for our staffing and prisoner groups . . . Police have successfully used the bodycams for a number of years, and there’s no reason in this contained environment . . . that we shouldn’t be able to use them successfully either.”-Correctional Officer in Queensland, AU*

The value bodycams add to prisons

Researchers analysing the pilot programs in Queensland, Australia found several positive factors resulting from the implementation of bodycams to their state’s prison system. Among the findings:

  • Widespread support for full implementation of bodycams among correctional officers (CO)
  • Majority of CO’s find bodycams necessary and useful for their industry
  • General recognition of the protective benefits of bodycams
  • General acceptance that bodycams increase accountability and transparency on both sides of the camera
  • Several significant benefits of bodycams over the use of CCTV cameras such as covering blind-spots, protecting CO’s from false claims and using the ‘on person’ view to better train and evaluate themselves to improve best practices.

Naturally privacy concerns are always an important issue to consider when implementing a bodycam solution, but with the right knowledge and tools, as well as the proper bodycam provider, all privacy and data regulations can quickly and easily be complied too. Furthermore, as insiders CorrectionsOne correctly state, in a prison there is actually less concern for privacy when compared to for example a police department, as there are no private citizens, innocent bystanders, or private details such as license plates or private residences that are recorded when the bodycam turns on.

Prison systems have for decades relied on the latest developments in technology to improve processes and standards, as well as create a safe place to work for correctional officers. From surveillance technology, to location sensors, to the latest in protective gear; prisons have always been at the forefront of technological innovation. Bodycams have shown to help protect staff and provide video and training tools in all manner of industries, as they now show their worth to prisons across the world.

“Transparency and accountability of already steadfast staff, with the addition of body camera audio and video, will make our work environments safer for everyone – most importantly, staff. ”We can use this technology to help mitigate false accusations and avoid lengthy and costly litigation by those in our custody.”- Corrections1

Bodycams in prisons becoming widespread

After many states had already implemented bodycams now a new development resulted in the largest deployment of bodycams to prisons to date. It happened just last week as the state of Ohio announced that all correctional officers will be equipped with bodycams. In a statement the director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) had this to say:

“The camera is the perfect witness, it is unbiased. This is ultimately about safety, transparency and accountability for everyone who works or lives in our prisons”Annette Chambers Smith | Director ODRC

Back in 2017 the U.K. government invested millions in upgrading safety in prisons by offering a bodycam for all 5600 correctional officers in England and Wales. The U.K. Ministry of Justice stated that bodycams will act as a visible deterrent against violence and assist in prosecutions when necessary. As the prison minister at the time stated:

“This latest investment underlines our commitment to transform our prisons into places of safety.”Sam Gyimah | Prisons minister

Bodycams are a valuable and cost effective tool in prisons

Bodycams are a valuable new tool in prisons where surveillance is deemed absolutely necessary for the safety of everyone involved. Not only correctional officers and prisoners, but also prison nurses, and transport officials can benefit from the added protection offered by bodycam solutions.

A bodycam solution clearly has the possibility to ‘pay for itself’ with important added benefits, such as:

  • Increased transparency and evidence collection
  • Increased oversight of prisons and activities conducted therein
  • The de-escalating factor of bodycams
  • Protection against false accusations
  • A new and useful tool for training and evaluation purposes

The costs of defending correctional officers and the prison from accusations, as well as employee sick leave can be combatted by the investment to provide extra tools that will increase officer safety and transparency.

* Dodd, S., Antrobus, E., & Sydes, M. (2020). Cameras in Corrections: Exploring the Views of Correctional Officers on the Introduction of Body-Worn Cameras in Prisons. Criminal Justice and Behavior47(9), 1190–1208.

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