Audio/Video, Body‑Worn Camera/Video Camera – Public Records Act Request

Frequently Asked Questions

Pursuant to Penal Code section 832.7(b)(1)(A)-(C) and the California Public Records Act (Government Code section 6250, et seq., or the “CPRA”) these records are now available for public review unless a legal exemption preventing disclosure applies.

Once a Public Records Act coordinator receives a request for public records, they should make an initial determination of whether the requested records are subject to public disclosure. The CDCR must respond to the requester within 10 calendar days of receiving the request with CDCR’s determination whether it has responsive records. With written notice to the requester, this deadline may be extended by up to an additional 14 days to accommodate unusual circumstances. A list of these circumstances can be found in Government Code section 6253(c)(1)-(4). Additionally, CDCR staff should redact all exempt information with the records and then promptly send the public records to the requester. If some or all requested records are withheld from release, the responsible CDCR staff must explain why in a written response.

Audio-Video Surveillance System (AVSS) consists of fixed cameras. Body-worn cameras are worn by custody staff. Both are used to enhance public safety and facility security by providing the ability for real-time monitoring and recording in order to conduct investigations and after-the-fact reviews by utilizing audio and/or video recording technology.

An AVSS deployment consisting of only fixed cameras was completed at High Desert State Prison and Central California Women’s Facility in June 2018. Partial deployments of fixed cameras were completed at California State Prison, Sacramento in July 2019 and California State Prison, San Quentin in December 2019.  Body-worn cameras were implemented as a Pilot Program at the Richard J. Donavan (RJD) Correctional Facility beginning on January 19, 2021, and will be in effect for 24 months and will expire by operation of law on January 19, 2023 unless it is promulgated through the Administrative Procedure Act prior to expiration. A full implementation of fixed cameras will be completed at RJD as well in April 2021.  

Audio/Video surveillance systems were installed at California State Prison, Sacramento, San Quentin State Prison, High Desert State Prison and, Central California Women’s Facility in order to enhance public safety and facility security by providing the ability for real-time monitoring and recording in order to conduct investigations and after-the-fact reviews by utilizing audio/video recording technology. 

In September 2020, the United States District Court ordered CDCR in Armstrong v. Newsom (No. 4:94-cv-02307-CW N.D. Cal.) to install surveillance cameras in all areas of Richard J. Donovan (RJD) Correctional Facility to which incarcerated people have access, including, but not limited to, all exercise yards, housing units, sally-ports, dining halls, program areas, and gymnasiums. CDCR was further ordered to retain all footage for a minimum of 90 days and footage of use of force and other triggering events retained indefinitely.  The Court further ordered CDCR to begin using body-worn cameras (BWC) for all correctional officers at RJD who may have any interaction with protected class members. Additionally, CDCR elected to implement BWCs for additional staff members that may have interaction with protected class members.

The Court held that BWCs are likely to improve investigations of misconduct by staff and reduce the incidence of violations of class members’ rights under the Armstrong Remedial Plan (ARP) and American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Court also found the opinions of Plaintiffs’ expert, Eldon Vail, to be based on research and studies on the topic. Eldon Vail asserted that the use of BWC in correctional facilities has resulted in “increased officer and inmate safety, fewer uses of force,” and improved investigations of internal misconduct by officers, particularly when used in conjunction with surveillance cameras.

The body-worn cameras shall remain on throughout the entire shift and only be deactivated under certain circumstances such as when using the restroom or conducting a confidential interview.

The body-worn camera pilot program has only been implemented at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.

All body-worn camera footage will be retained for a minimum of 90 days. The recorded data may be preserved for a longer period of time as potential evidence in an investigation, or an administrative, civil, or criminal proceeding.

Visuals and audio may be redacted from camera footage if the law prohibits disclosure of that information.   Examples of information that may be redacted includes:

  • the face or voice of the victim of rape or sexual assault,
  • information that would pose a significant danger to an individual’s physical safety if known,
  • visuals and audio which if known would compromise the safety and security of the institution,
  • confidential medical information  
  • camera footage that is the basis of a pending investigation by CDCR
  • Personal data or information, including but not limited to:
  • Home address, telephone number, identities of family members, and social security numbers

Responsive documents to Public Records Act requests, including video footage, can be retrieved through the CDCR Public Records Portal.

If video footage can be retrieved through the CDCR Public Records Portal, there will be no charge. However, if video footage has to be provided on a CD or DVD, there will be a charge.