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4 ways a modern video surveillance system can benefit a correctional facility

Security cameras in correctional facilities can assist officers in detection of suspicious activity and help keep a lid on large scale incidents

When considering security upgrades inside your agency’s correctional facility, the video surveillance system should be at the top of the priority list.

The combined inmate population of state, federal and local lockups hovers around 2.3 million. A video surveillance system is a vital component in safely governing this incarcerated population and staff. There are many different systems and features to choose from when designing this security necessity.

A video surveillance system is essential to providing safety and security for all individuals in the facility. Surveillance footage can provide evidence documenting incidents involving inmate violence, officer misconduct or illegal drug usage.

Here are four examples of how an upgraded video surveillance system benefits a correctional facility:

1. Placement of multiple security cameras in large common areas provide several points of view for COs reviewing incidents and monitoring activities. The surveillance will help maintain order in inmate common areas such as the dining hall in a minimum facility or a main housing unit dayroom in a higher security jail.

2. Inmate and officer safety can be monitored through the presence of cameras in sober cells, intake, booking and medical units. The very presence of cameras has a deterrent effect and can reduce incidents of inmate and officer assaults.

3. Camera placement on the exterior perimeter of a facility can document any suspicious activity occurring in outside recreational yards where contraband can enter. Video surveillance systems assist in the prevention of drug smuggling either on the inmate person or picked up from outside on the grounds.

4. Updated digital surveillance technology provides superior data storage opportunities. Archived digital video footage can be stored on hard drives, cloud platforms or portable devices for easy access. Searching video footage is simple with upgraded digital technology. These storage capabilities can be especially useful when investigating facility crimes, assaults, generating crime reports for prosecution and secure submission of evidence.

Although upgrading your agency’s correctional facility video surveillance system has several benefits, there are a few associated risks with installation and usage.

  • Inmates have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to come up with creative ideas and resources for bettering their time in custody. Tampering with electrical devices within a unit is a common activity. Sparking off of electrical wires, modifying or destruction of mounted video camera units is a likely possibility. Replacement of those damaged devices should be a cost consideration when budgeting for a system equipment upgrade.
  • Inmate privacy rights while incarcerated is always a hot topic of controversy and debate. Video surveillance equipment placement in prisons and jails is a precarious issue. Many facilities operate under the premise that inmate security and safety is the ultimate goal with camera installation in each and every cell. The other perspective believes individual cell monitoring is a violation of privacy for the inmate. Thorough knowledge of facility policy and state law is an important consideration when designing and installing surveillance systems.
  • Video cameras, although efficient and effective tools for facility security, are not a replacement for staff. A video surveillance system will only be effective when incorporated as a part of a larger security plan including officers, alarm systems and other security tools.

The latest technology
Facilities around the country have moved toward implementation of a new phenomenon called a Telehealth Unit. The Telehealth Unit is an inmate medical visit held in a room which is wired for cameras, sound and remote medical tools. The patient medical visit includes a video conference between the inmate and a doctor who is at a remote location. Presently, the state prison system in Texas has implemented the Telehealth Unit in every facility. The Telehealth Unit concept is taking hold across the United States with reports of cost savings, improved facility security and personnel safety.

Easy detection
The presence of security cameras in correctional facilities can assist officers in detection of suspicious activity and help keep a lid on large scale incidents. When incidents occur, security video footage can help decipher exactly what happened when all witnesses claim they were in the shower. Digital video footage can be easily stored and presented as evidence during investigations while maintaining complete security.

With all the latest technological advances and user friendly platforms available, making the choice to upgrade your correctional facility’s video surveillance system has never been so beneficial and easily attainable.

Melissa Mann is recently retired from the field of law enforcement. Her experience spanned 18 years which included assignments in Corrections, Community Policing, Dispatch Communications and Search and Rescue. Melissa holds a BS in Criminal Justice and MA in Psychology with an emphasis on studies on the psychological process of law enforcement officers. She holds a deep passion for researching and writing about the lifestyle of police and corrections work and the far-reaching psychological effects on the officer and their world.