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Optimizing surveillance systems in correctional settings

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2021
21 pages

Because there is already widespread use of video surveillance in prisons and jails, this guidebook focuses on optimizing these existing surveillance systems to improve institutional safety.


This guidebook outlines nine steps for correctional agencies that are looking to improve or enhance their surveillance systems. It is grounded in current research and findings from a recent effort to upgrade and optimize the video and audio surveillance systems at two state correctional facilities. Led by the Urban Institute in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, that effort focused on enhancing the prisons’ surveillance systems, addressing challenges and gaps, and improving facility safety for staff and people incarcerated. To better understand the prisons’ needs, Urban interviewed prison leadership and staff, including wardens, correctional officers, and security leads, as well as information technology leads involved in infrastructure and camera installation, configuration, and maintenance. The guidebook outlines the lessons derived from that study in a series of steps that can help other correctional agencies identify surveillance goals, consider their systems’ limitations and constraints, and develop strategies for meaningful improvements. (Published abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021