Tutwiler Prison Officers Training With New Camera System

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By Catalina Trivino

From Wetumpka -- Tutwiler Prison For Women has completed its first objective to bring safety to its inmates. More than 300 new cameras have now been installed. Alabama News Network was the only news station in our area to get an inside look as officers get training.

For the last several months, the Department of Corrections has worked with a consulting firm the governor hired to help the state comply with the federal prison rape elimination act. With Tutwiler on the radar for allegations of sexual abuse between guards and inmates, prison officials hope the new cameras will make the prison safer.

It's a new $1.4 million surveillance system inside Tutwiler Prison for Women. Prison officials say 325 new cameras make a big difference to the prison culture.

Officials would not specify how many cameras there were before, but they say there were "few." It's why consultants with the Moss Group have provided intensive training for guards and administrators that's lasted for several weeks.

But consultants say it takes more than just cameras to prevent sexual abuse.

"I do think it's true that cameras are not the silver bullet," Said Andie Moss, who leads the Moss Group. "There's no one thing that we're doing here at Tutwiler or nationally in addressing sexual safety. That's the one magical bullet. It still takes all the work and it takes collaboration. It takes communication across the vision lines within the agency."

Moss says now there are cameras in every corner.

Prison officials say the cameras will not angle toward bathrooms or shower areas. Instead, they will point toward who is coming in and out.

Prison officials say inmates are already talking about the cameras.

"Most of the inmates are very glad to see the camera system. And we have had incidents already where the system has come to the aid of an inmate in a situation where maybe a violation they've been alleged to be involved with," Said Wendy Williams, Deputy Commissioner for Women's Services.

Prison officials say they've hired eight additional officers to monitor the cameras.

A set of rules to manage the cameras, referred to as the prison's "camera management policy," has not been put into place yet. It could take three to six months for officers to learn how to work the system.

"We're working on it immediately. We've been working on it," Said Moss. "I don't mean to be vague about that, but the policy takes a process. But we are certainly putting the meat to it."

All media crews were only allowed to be inside the training for about 45 minutes before told to step out. Prison officials say that was because they were getting into more of the confidential portion of the training.

The department expects 24/7 camera surveillance operations to begin next week.

While at Tutwiler, Alabama News Network also learned the prison has also added about a dozen female correctional officers since May.

Prison officials also tell us renovations to four bathrooms are nearly finished; complete with dividers between toilets and shower curtains. Prison officials say renovations for the other eight dorm bathrooms are scheduled to be finished by October 1.

 

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