Prisoners caught on tape misbehaving

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 13:39 04/06/2014
Department of Corrections

Department of Corrections staff have been trying out body mounted cameras in prisons.

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Video footage of prisoners misbehaving has been shown to MPs to highlight the success of a trial that has seen some prison officers equipped with smartphone-sized cameras on their lapels.

Corrections Department officers in two prisons are part-way through a trial of "on-body" cameras, but the results were already "promising", Corrections Minister Anne Tolley told the parliamentary law and order select committee today.

The trial is being carried out in Auckland and Rimutaka prisons for six months.

"I'm not sure anyone's ever made public film taken from inside a prison, but we thought it was interesting enough to show how technology can be used to protect our staff and also improve behaviour," Tolley said.

"If we can improve the behaviour and the management of prisoners, that means we can offer them more opportunities.

"It keeps our staff safe and it keeps them [the prisoners] safe."

Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales told the committee that cameras were recording but not retaining the information.

If an incident occurred, prison officers could press a button on the camera that would begin storing the information and retain up to four minutes of the previous footage.

"The clips are real clips of staff interacting with prisoners, reacting to events or using the cameras to gather evidence," he said.

The footage showed two prisoners using prison phones. One was told to hang up because he became abusive to his partner on the other end of the line; the other refused to hang up after lockup.

In both cases, the camera acted as a deterrent for escalated behaviour.

A clip showed evidence footage for contraband that was found, as well as a weapon that was recovered, and footage of the floor where it was sharpened.

Outside the committee, Tolley said the footage was interesting.

"I've been in and out of prisons and talked with prisoners, but not normally in those sorts of circumstances," she said.

"I'm constantly amazed at the variety of ways that technology can assist in the management of prisoners and also staff safety."

Although the trial was showing promising results, that might not be enough to roll out on-body cameras across all areas of the prisons.

"I would need to see a case for that because it is surveillance and you don't want low-security prisoners to feel that they're constantly being monitored," she said.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush has said that police would look at the results of the trial.

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