by Keith Sanders
In January 2022, the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation began requiring the state’s 5,000 prison guards to don body-worn cameras. Supplied by Axon, the “body cams,” which complement over 1,000 security cameras already installed in Ohio’s 28 state prisons, will cost almost $7 million the first year and about $3 million each year after that.
Several other states have purchased body cams for guards at some of their prisons, including California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Wisconsin. The moves have come in response to reports of prisoner abuse and civil rights violations by guards. At California’s five prisons which have them, body cams were ordered by a judge after a disabled prisoner claimed his civil rights were violated. [See: PLN, Mar. 2021, p.34.]
In Ohio, the new policy was prompted by the January 2021 death of prisoner Michael McDaniel at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient. The 55-year-old was pushed to the frozen ground at least 16 times by guards, seven of whom were fired, along with a nurse. But despite a coroner’s declaration that the death was a homicide, no charges were filed. Prison officials claimed McDaniel assaulted the guards, but there was no video evidence, since the incident occurred behind a stairwell partially hidden from view of security cameras. [See: PLN, Dec. 2021, p.59.]
Jada McDaniel believes her brother would still be alive if the guards had worn body cams. “They would have thought twice. They probably wouldn’t have taken him out and abused him,” she said.
The head of Ohio’s prison system, Annette Chambers-Smith, noted that body cams will offer transparency and provide “accountability for everyone who works or lives in our prisons.”
According to the new policy, body cams will “automatically activate when a gun or pepper spray is drawn,” but will remain powered at all times, so whether or not the camera is activated, it will capture video continuously and store it for up to 18 hours.
But cameras have a history of malfunctioning during incidents involving questionable guard behavior. Surveillance cameras went offline while federal Bureau of Prisons guards shopped online at Metropolitan Correctional Center in August 2019, so there is no video of the in-cell suicide of billionaire accused sex-trafficking pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. [See: PLN, Jan. 2022, p.34.] Nor is there video of the in-cell suicide of one of his alleged accomplices, Jean-Luc Brunel, because cameras malfunctioned in the French prison where he died in February 2022. [See: PLN, May 2022, p.62.]
Source: New York Times
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