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DOJ OIG Releases Management Advisory Memorandum on Needed Upgrades to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Security Camera System

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz today released a Management Advisory Memorandum to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) concerning needed upgrades to the BOP’s security camera system. The camera system helps the BOP secure its 122 institutions and keep safe its nearly 38,000 staff and over 155,000 inmates, as well as deter and hold accountable staff and inmates who commit misconduct.

Through reviews, audits, and investigations dating back to at least 2013, the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has repeatedly observed inadequacies in the BOP’s camera system that have impacted the safety and security of BOP institutions and the ability of law enforcement to hold bad actors—including inmates and BOP staff— accountable for crimes and administrative misconduct. In a 2016 report on the BOP’s contraband interdiction efforts, the OIG identified significant deficiencies within the BOP’s security camera system, including an insufficient number of cameras to capture alleged misconduct incidents, poor quality video, inoperable cameras, and inadequate video storage. The OIG recommended that the BOP evaluate the existing security camera system to identify needed upgrades.

Over 5 years later, the OIG continues to see the same deficiencies in our investigations that we observed during our 2016 review. These deficiencies have negatively impacted the OIG’s investigations and ability to secure prosecution of serious incidents in BOP institutions, including sexual assaults, civil rights violations, introduction of contraband, dereliction of duty, and even inmate deaths. Further, 86 percent of the BOP’s cameras across its institutions are still analog or utilize old technology.

The OIG determined that although the BOP completed a multiyear project to upgrade the cameras at 45 of its 122 institutions, the BOP still must transition from an outdated analog system to a modern, fully digital system. A fully digital camera system would provide improved video and coverage; enhanced zoom, filter, and search capabilities; and expanded video storage periods that would enhance the BOP’s threat assessments, inmate monitoring, and contraband interdictions. The OIG also determined that the BOP lacks a comprehensive strategic plan to address these significant deficiencies, including how it can obtain the necessary funding to implement such a plan.

The OIG made one recommendation to help the BOP transition to a fully digital security camera system. The BOP agreed with the recommendation and described the upgrades needed and estimated cost projections and timelines to achieve a fully digital system.

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