The state of California is paying for corrections officers at a state prison in San Diego County to wear body cameras, a first for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The department rolled out the pilot program at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility last month, as part of a court order in a long-running lawsuit that seeks better treatment of disabled California prison inmates.
In that case, known as Armstrong vs. Newsom, several disabled inmates alleged that they were victims of brutality at the hands of corrections officers.
The court ruled that body cameras would likely improve investigations of misconduct by staff, and reduce the number of violations of disabled inmates’ rights.
Gay Grunfeld, an attorney who represented inmates in that case, said that there was a lack of transparency at the Richard J. Donovan facility, and that inmates felt mistreated by guards.
“There’s no bystanders with cellphones in a prison. They’re even more prone to abuse than people on the street,” she said.
In addition to body-worn cameras, the judge also ordered the department to install a audio-visual surveillance system at the prison.
“CDCR was further ordered to retain all footage for a minimum of 90 days and footage of use of force and other triggering events retained indefinitely,” according to a budget request document.
The Newsom administration in a budget request is seeking $30.5 million over the course of three fiscal years to pay for the installation of security and body cameras.
“This will enable CDCR to know what happened. It will help them reduce the amount of contraband in their prisons. It is long overdue,” Grunfeld said.
Dana Simas, spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said in a statement that court-mandated pilot program will allow the department to evaluate this new technology in the prison system.
“That’s all I can provide on the pilot program at this time as it’s still being rolled out,” she said.