Body Cameras Ordered for Officers in California Prison

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For the first time, California correctional officers will be required to use body cameras while interacting with inmates inside a state prison, a federal judge ordered Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling was issued in a civil rights lawsuit over disabled inmates’ rights. A federal judge found evidence to support allegations of physical abuse of prisoners at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. “Body cameras have never been used in California prisons. This is a very important order to help put an end to physical abuse and broken bones of those with physical disabilities at this most dangerous of prisons,” said attorney Gay Grunfeld, whose law firm, with the Prison Law Office, represents the plaintiffs. “Body cameras can bring sound and context to situations that involve the use of force which surveillance cameras cannot.”

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken gave the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation five months to get the body-worn devices into use. She also ordered that records from body cameras be preserved from use-of-force incidents and that policies be created. Wilken’s order was part of an injunction she granted to address allegations of repeated physical abuse and retaliation against disabled inmates. Wilken is handling a class-action lawsuit that seeks to guarantee inmates’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her ruling applies to a single prison, but she is expected to hear a motion next month that examines evidence of abuses across the state prison system and seeks to implement the use of body cameras in 35 prisons. The injunction was based on 112 sworn declarations from inmates that lawyers said showed staff “routinely use unnecessary and excessive force against people with disabilities, often resulting in broken bones, loss of consciousness, stitches or injuries that require medical attention at outside hospitals.”

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