Body cameras coming to some Ohio prisons this month

Laura A. Bischoff
The Columbus Dispatch
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction will deploy body cameras on staff at Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Ohio State Penitentiary and two adult parole offices as a pilot project beginning in June 2021.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, one of the largest state prison systems in the nation, is trying out body cameras on its staff as a pilot project.

The state is seeking proposals from four companies to deploy cameras on staff at Chillicothe Correctional Institution and Ohio State Penitentiary as well as the adult parole authority workers in Cleveland and Dayton.

Ohio DRC Director Annette Chambers Smith said she believes the cameras will reduce assaults on staff and improve staff accountability.

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"This should reduce the amount of force that's necessary to begin with. Some of the things that happen are literally crimes against our corrections officers. I expect that those to stop or decrease. As well as, there is accountability for us. Body cameras are a two way street," Chambers Smith said.

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Annette Chambers Smith said adding body cameras to prison staff will improve accountability among employees and inmates.

Body cameras would supplement the 6,500 fixed cameras deployed throughout the system.

Four companies are submitting proposals for camera systems with various features. The systems will be tried for 45 days and then state officials will decide what would work best.

Ohio DRC said the program may cost roughly $17 million for the first year based on other jurisdictions, but an exact cost won't be determined until a vendor is selected. The plan is to use general revenue funds. 

Chambers Smith said body cameras are being deployed in a handful of state prison systems across the country. Some cameras turn on automatically when officers pull out Tasers or handcuffs or enter certain areas.

Body cameras are more commonly deployed among police officers. 

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She also added that Ohio DRC staff are being trained on crisis intervention and the duty to intervene when situations are going badly.

"We don't run an organization here where we take life lightly. We understand that we have people's family members that we are responsible for," she said. "All of our strategic planning, training and accountability is headed toward that direction to make sure we have the best organization that we can."

Ohio DRC houses 43,000 people convicted of felonies and employs 11,700 staff.