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Prison system right to use body cameras

Soon, Ohio officers wearing body cameras won’t just be on street patrol.

According to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers-Smith, that agency is in the process of purchasing and equipping all of Ohio’s prison and parole staff with body-worn cameras.

Good!

The first phase of implementation started last month and included staff training and the deployment of approximately 550 body-worn cameras for security supervisors in all of Ohio’s prisons.

According to the ODRC, the new plan will include deployment of an additional 4,550 cameras, which will be assigned to specifically identified prison posts and individual parole officers in the Adult Parole Authority. The goal is to complete the full rollout of the body-worn cameras throughout the first half of 2022.

The announcement followed a pilot project testing the use of body cameras in Ohio’s prisons last June. The pilot concluded in October and involved two prisons and two Adult Parole Authority regions. During that time, DRC also connected with other state correctional and law enforcement agencies, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, to identify best practices for body camera use.

The body-worn camera systems, including equipment and storage, will be funded through a combination of federal CARES Act money approved by the Controlling Board, grant funding from the federal government.

“These cameras will supplement our existing stationary camera systems and will help to capture areas we otherwise may not be able to see,” Chambers-Smith said in last week’s announcement. “This is ultimately about safety, transparency and accountability for everyone who works or lives in our prisons.”

Accountability and transparency always are key in potentially volatile situations. Any time use of force and / or aggression is displayed — whether against a prison employee or against an inmate — this video footage will provide critical evidence for investigation of prison incidents. The cameras record unalterable evidence of often tumultuous scenarios as they unfold. Yes, potential exists to be overly scrutinized, but the recordings also provide a response if and when an officer has done his or her job correctly.

Additionally, recorded body camera footage also will be beneficial for training scenarios.

Let’s face it, while we live in an era where virtually anything can be caught on camera at any time, that simply is not the case inside prison walls. That’s one of the reasons we believe body camera usage inside prisons is so important.

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