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Examining the Impacts of Body-Worn Cameras on Correctional Culture, Climate, and the Well-Being of Staff and Incarcerated Persons

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $874,312)

Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) have brought significant attention to criminal justice practice and reform over the past ten years. While most scholarship has centered on law enforcement, prison and jail administrators are increasingly equipping correctional officers (COs) with these devices. Recent, but limited, research has found that BWCs may be uniquely suited to correctional settings, with one randomized controlled trial (RCT) showing that BWCs significantly reduced CO uses of force and injuries to incarcerated residents. By enhancing the well-being of staff and residents, this technology holds promise for improving correctional culture (the manifest behaviors of and interactions between staff and residents) and climate (the perceptions of the carceral environment among key stakeholders).

CNA, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC), proposes to conduct a process and impact evaluation of BWCs in five state prisons. The selected facilities vary geographically, by security level, and in resident populations. They represent more than half of the MnDOC’s incarcerated population and workforce. CNA will execute a clustered RCT by randomly assigning 84 housing/nonhousing units across the five facilities into either treatment or control conditions. COs in the treatment group units will be assigned to wear BWCs for the one-year study period.

To facilitate the process evaluation, CNA will observe BWC trainings, review policies and procedures, and interview staff. For the impact evaluation, CNA will survey incarcerated residents, COs, and non-security staff to collect measures of climate (e.g., feelings of safety, perceptions of quality of life and fairness, staff-resident rapport). The team will measure culture by collecting administrative data on the interactions between staff and residents (e.g., uses of force, resident-on-resident and resident-on-staff assaults, injuries). CNA will analyze interview data with reflexive thematic analysis methods. They will analyze survey and administrative data using random-effects panel models to estimate site-specific impacts and latent growth models to estimate aggregate/pooled impacts. Their dissemination plan includes scholarly journal articles, practitioner briefs, a guidebook, and conference presentations.

The rigorous and multisite nature of this study will produce findings that are reliable, valid, and broadly beneficial to both academic and practitioner audiences. Study findings will inform correctional agencies about BWC practices that can improve safety and well-being and create sustainable impacts on climate and culture. CA/NCF

Date Created: January 4, 2024