We will ultimately not be judged by our technology. We won’t be judged by our design. We won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately you judge the character of a society. Not by how they treat the rich and the powerful and the privileged but by how they treat the poor. The condemned. The incarcerated. Because it’s in that nexus that we actually begin to understand truly profound things about who we are.
As many of you know (or should know), I recently started a petition for Prison Accountability Reform. The goal is to push the state to install security cameras, monitored by a third party security team, in the cell blocks to keep an eye out for abuses. Specifically, the abuse of inmates at the hands of Correctional Officers. I felt I should further elaborate.
Currently, if an inmate is battered, beaten, or otherwise assaulted he/she has no legal recourse. There is simply a “grievance” form that can be filed against the abusive officer, but these rarely gain any traction for a reason. Any inmate that witnesses an abusive incident remains silent out of fear of reprisal. If one speaks up, he/she could be sent to “The Box”, have visitations rights revoked, or even be given a ticket for a made-up violation which could result in a new charge and an extended sentence. Recommendations can also be made that impact an inmates chance at parole, potentially delaying ones freedom. When something like that is on the line, inmates know better than to draw any negative attention. So without a witness, an abused inmate cannot provide any evidence to be used against the officer. There is no other recourse.
It’s for this reason that C.O.’s abuse inmates so frequently… because there are no consequences. On the flip-side, cameras would also be a benefit to C.O.’s in the event an inmate were to assault them. While this isn’t nearly as common, it certainly does happen. And this way the C.O. can have evidence to prove which inmate did what and, in general, keep a better eye out for any other signs of inappropriate behavior.
That’s why we need cameras. For increased oversight. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.
Those opposed to this seem to think the Constitution doesn’t apply within prison walls, as if the rule of law somehow ceases to apply. Those people are wrong. Regardless of the crime committed, an inmate is already serving time which is a consequence enough in itself. Unprovoked beatings and abuse is NOT part of any sentence and is not defensible in a society that purports to be “civilized”. Even the most heinous among us retain their most basic rights.
Here are a few examples of where cameras in prisons provided accountability outside of New York:
I’ll end this with a quote from Brian Stevenson, who did a brilliant TED talk on injustice:
And that’s where I’m coming from. So please… sign the petition.