Officials at San Quentin State Prison have installed numerous surveillance cameras throughout the institution’s housing units, educational departments, work sites, chapel areas and recreational yards.
As the work progressed, residents saw and heard workers utilizing scissor-lift vehicles to fix the devices high up on the walls of cell blocks. Cameras protrude from ceilings inside buildings and from various points of their exteriors to cover outdoor areas. A camera looks down from the center of the ceiling in the SQNews newsroom.
San Quentin is among four other California state prisons to receive these surveillance systems since 2018 including High Desert State Prison (2018), Central California Women’s Facility (2018) and California State Prison, Sacramento (2019).
The Richard J. Donovan (RJD) Correctional Facility implemented a pilot program for body-worn cameras for its officers in 2021. RJD also has a fixed camera system. The initial implementation of surveillance cameras and body-cameras came from a U.S. District judge ordering CDCR to develop a policy to track and monitor incidents.
This court decision stems from a class action lawsuit brought by prisoners in 1994 alleging unnecessary and excessive use of force against prisoners with disabilities at the R.J. Donovan prison, according to reporting by the Los Angeles Times Sept. 8, 2020.
In a July 26, 2021 article the Sacramento Bee quoted CDCR spokeswoman Vicky Waters: “Cameras are not only deterrents of illicit activity or misconduct,” said Waters, “they can help with the ability to conduct after-the-fact reviews and investigations of incidents.”