Judge orders use of video during incidents with prison inmates
by WNCN Staff
A lawsuit filed by eight Central Prison inmates claims guards used blind spots in the current video system to hide from surveillance so they can beat up prisoners.
RALEIGH, N.C. -
A United States District Court judge issued an order Thursday requiring prison staff to record any incident should force be required on an inmate.
A lawsuit filed by eight Central Prison inmates claims guards used blind spots in the current video system to hide from surveillance so they can beat up prisoners. The prisoners also allege there's a "lack of policy for the proper method of investigation in any use-of-force incidents."
As a result, Judge Terrance Boyle appointed an expert -- former corrections administrator Eldon Vail -- to review the prison’s surveillance system, who then made five recommendations.
The state adopted four of the recommendations but said having a hand-held video camera is not feasible and placed "undue burden upon Central Prison."
However on Thursday, Boyle ordered that the fifth recommendation be adopted, requiring prison staff to record an incident should force be required on an inmate.
Officials at the N.C. Department of Public Safety deny any abuse, saying staff used the minimal amount of force required to deal with inmates characterized as the "worst of the worst" among the prison system's population.
Still, the state agreed last year to add security cameras to cover previously unmonitored areas. But Vail's report said the new cameras still don't monitor all the blind spots where inmates say the abuse occurred.
Vail also reported finding lenses so out-of-focus and smudged with grime that it was difficult to make out what the cameras were recording.
In addition to requiring prison staff to record incidents, Vail recommended:
Adjust each camera that demonstrate a pattern of "freezing" to improve motion detection sensitivity.
Establish a written preventive maintenance schedule for lens cleaning, camera refocusing and replacement of faulty cameras.
Install additional cameras to view the sally ports of each cellblock in Unit 1.
Modify the Video Surveillance Retention Policy & Procedure to clarify the responsibility to provide notice to the video retention officer to preserve a video by the unit supervisor from the investigator's responsibility to request a cope of the video for the investigation.
In November, Boyle rejected efforts by the state to dismiss the inmates' lawsuit for lack of merit.