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Congress Forces BOP to Upgrade Security Cameras

by Mark Wilson

“Broken prison camera systems are enabling corruption, misconduct and abuse” within America’s 122 federal prisons, declared U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), when Pres. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D) signed Ossoff’s bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021 into law on January 10, 2023.

When he introduced the legislation, Ossoff said that federal prisons “must be cleaned up and held to the highest standards,” so surveillance camera blind spots, lost footage and technical failures are simply unacceptable.

The federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has long been criticized for insufficient and malfunctioning security cameras. A 2016 report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that BOP camera problems compromised investigations into staff misconduct and civil rights violations, as well as contraband smuggling, escapes and prisoner deaths.

Camera deficiencies took center stage in the suspicious 2019 suicide of billionaire financier and convicted child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein at the now-shuttered Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. In March 2022, AP News reported that a lack of cameras in critical areas also permitted prisoner sexual abuse by staff at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, which was so pervasive that the lockup became known as the “rape club.”

The legislation was sponsored by Ossoff, along with Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), as well as U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) and Fred Keller (R-Pa.). It mandated that BOP evaluate its security camera, land-mobile radio and public address systems and submit an upgrade plan to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees within 90 days. BOP must also provide annual progress reports to those committees and complete implementation of its upgrade plan within three years. See: Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021, S. 2899 (117th), 2022.

In a statement, BOP claimed that it “appreciates the work and support of Senator Ossoff and other members of Congress, as well as the President of the United States.” Shane Fausey, President of the Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees – the union representing BOP guards – agreed that the upgrade will enhance “the level of safety in our nation’s federal prisons.” 

Additional source: NBC News