Bipartisan senators introduce legislation to upgrade federal prisons' camera systems

Bipartisan senators introduce legislation to upgrade federal prisons' camera systems
© Greg Nash

Sens. Jon OssoffJon OssoffMissouri Senate candidate says Congress members should go to jail if guilty of insider trading Perdue proposes election police force in Georgia Ossoff and Collins clash over her past support for voting rights legislation MORE (D-Ga.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (D-Ill.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (R-Iowa) introduced legislation on Wednesday to upgrade camera systems in federal prisons. 

The Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021 would require the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to submit to Congress a plan to address deficiencies in security cameras, land-mobile radios, and public address systems.

The agency would be required to implement its plan within three years of submitting it to Congress.

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The legislation would require that upgrades ensure secure storage, logging, preservation, and accessibility of recordings so that footage is available for investigators pursuing allegations of misconduct or other criminal activity.

The issue of prison cameras became a hot topic following the death of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. The FBI began investigating broken cameras outside of Epstein’s prison cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan in 2019. 

At the time, then-Attorney General William BarrBill BarrJan. 6 committee chair says panel spoke to William Barr William Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 MORE said he was “angry” over the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death.

But even before Epstein’s death, a 2016 report from the Department of Justices’ Office of Inspector General concerning the BOP’s efforts to prevent contraband found “deficiencies” within the agency’s security camera system, including “blind spots known to inmates and staff.”  

Ossoff, who is listed as the main sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that it will “help protect both incarcerated people and staff from violence and abuse.”

“Blind spots, lost footage, and technical failures are unacceptable in Federal prisons, which must be cleaned up and held to the highest standards. We hope to achieve swift passage of the bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021,” Ossoff continued.