Documentaries and filming within CDCR

State law provides that CDCR may on a case-by-case basis accommodate requests from filmmakers, production companies and documentary producers to film inside its correctional facilities. The law also states that such access is granted within available resources consistent with the safe and secure operations of CDCR facilities. However, this type of filming is considered discretionary filming and fiscal concerns necessitates the need to focus on CDCR’s core mission-critical functions and avoid incurring extra staffing costs.

Video camera in front of a wavy faded film strip

The Office of Public and Employee Communications (OPEC) evaluates proposals to film in a CDCR adult institution, juvenile facility, community-based facility or parole unit on a case-by-case basis. This also includes scouts and visits. Those wishing to film should submit a thorough written request for review. Simply submitting an application for a film permit to the California Film Commission is necessary, but not sufficient. The proposal should include information about you and/or your company, details about your project, the size of your crew, and your plans for distributing the film. Please also include the date, times and location you wish to film at as well as a description of what you’d like to film and any interviews with administrators, staff and/or incarcerated people.

Written requests and proposals from filmmakers and production companies are evaluated to ascertain impact on staffing, resources, safety, security and operations as well as compliance with California law, departmental policies and communications objectives. We ask that you provide at least 20 working days to review the least complex request.

If approval is given, a location agreement must be executed with the parent firm and a film permit from the California Film Commission will be required along with evidence of financial responsibility and liability insurance in the amount of at least $1 million with the State of California, including its officers, agents and employees as the “additional insured.” Part of the agreement provides for defending and indemnifying the State against any lawsuits. Another part of the agreement also states that the parent firm is responsible for reasonable staffing costs, including benefits and overtime rates of pay, directly associated with its filming activities.

Contact the Press Office

Stock Video and Photos

OPEC maintains a library of stock CDCR video footage and still photographs and makes these available to the media upon request. There is current and archived footage and photographs of correctional facilities and programs, including restricted or limited access areas such as control booths, guard towers, the execution chamber, death row, and Administrative Segregation and Security Housing Units.

Public domain: The video footage and still images included on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website are considered public documents, which are in the public domain. No signed licensed agreement is necessary for permissions. To request a higher resolution of stock video footage or still photographs, contact OPEC.