State Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville, has sponsored a bill concerning a body camera pilot program in Lowell Correctional Institution in response to sexual assault complaints from inmates.
A recent report by the Department of Justice stated there is sufficient reasonable cause to believe Lowell Correctional Institution violates the constitutional rights of prisoners and fails to protect inmates from serious harm due to sexual abuse by staff. The Civil Rights Division of the DOJ began this investigation in 2018, which stemmed from a series of previous sexual assault complaints filed by prisoners between 2011 and 2015.
Within the 36-page report, the DOJ highlights minimal remedial measures that are necessary for Lowell to address such as ensuring national standards to prevent, detect and respond to prison rape. The DOJ’s investigation followed a 2015 story by the Miami Herald that outlined serious problems at the facility, which is located about 10 miles north of downtown Ocala and within the southern boundaries of Hinson’s district.
The pilot program with the Department of Corrections would require each correctional officer to wear body cameras while on duty at Lowell as well as require the department to establish new policies and procedures relating to the use, maintenance and storage of body cameras.
The department would also provide further training for the correctional officers, and require that all video and audio data recorded be maintained in accordance with public records law.
State Sens. Annette Taddeo and Victor M. Torres, Jr. are sponsoring its companion legislation. If taken into effect, usage of body cameras at Lowell Correctional Institution would begin July 1, 2021.