Broken security cameras in US prisons targeted by senators’ bill

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WASHINGTON – Faulty security cameras in federal prisons allowed inmates to escape undetected and were the focus of investigation when wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide behind bars in 2019. Now lawmakers want to force the Bureau of Prisons to repair and upgrade security systems.

“Blind spots, lost footage and technical failures are unacceptable in federal prisons, which must be cleaned and maintained to the highest standards,” said Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., Who presented a report on Wednesday. Biparty legislation requiring the office and Department of Justice to ensure that there is adequate coverage by security cameras in the agency’s 122 federal prisons.

Ossoff, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley, the panel’s top Republican, say problems with the cameras – which sometimes don’t work or are not recorded too frequently – make it difficult for authorities to properly investigate allegations of misconduct.

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The legislation, known as the Prison Camera Reform Act of 2021, would require the Bureau of Prisons to assess its security camera, radio and public address systems and submit a report to Congress within 90 days detailing the shortcomings and a plan. to implement the necessary upgrade. This would require upgrades within three years and annual progress reports to lawmakers.

Durbin, D-Ill., Said the bill “would bring our facilities into the 21st century while helping us achieve our goal of creating safer conditions for people in correctional facilities.” Grassley, R-Iowa, said the measure “would help ensure safety, security and accountability in federal prisons for correctional officers and inmates.”

The Bureau of Prisons’ camera issues came into the public spotlight after Epstein’s death when investigators learned that some cameras in his living unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York had malfunctioned. The other cameras did not capture whoever comes or goes from Epstein’s cell before he committed suicide, former attorney general William Barr said. The two officers who were supposed to watch Epstein every 30 minutes slept and surfed the internet, bought furniture and motorcycles, prosecutors said.

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Scathing reports from the Inspector General of the Department of Justice detailed how investigators were hampered in their investigations due to malfunctioning prison cameras and how inadequate camera coverage allowed inmates to simply walk out of prisons federal with little detection.

More than 30 prisoners escaped federal prisons across the United States over the past 20 months and nearly half have still not been captured.

The Prisons Office has long been plagued by allegations of serious misconduct and abuse. In the past two years alone, the agency has grappled with a pandemic response failure, a series of escapes, deaths and extremely low staffing levels that hampered responses to emergencies.

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