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Indiana jail touts body camera success

Clinton County's body camera program in the jail is in its second year, but it's a rarity compared to most jails.

FRANKFORT, Ind. — An Indiana jail says it's safer because the officers inside are wearing body cameras.

Clinton County's body camera program in the jail is in its second year, but it's a rarity compared to most jails.

On drug raids and traffic stops, body cameras are becoming standard issue for police on the streets - an extra set of eyes for evidence and accountability.

But behind bars, they aren't as common in county jails.

And in state prisons, the Department of Correction said no prisons in Indiana have body cameras, except for a pilot program underway at Miami County Correctional Facility.

In Clinton County, all 30 corrections officers and commanders wear cameras on their vests. They're required to roll video and audio anytime they're with inmates.

They say it's a much better view than overhead cameras that are in hallways and common areas inside the facility.

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Body cameras can see more and, more importantly, hear more, too. They're tiny truth tellers in the jail pods, where it used to be one person's word against another's.

"It's accountability," said jail commander Natasha Douglass, "for not only our inmates, but our staff as well. Being able to listen and actually hear the verbal exchange between our staff and inmates is gigantic."

"For example, if an inmate tries to lie about something that happened, we check the footage. We review it to see if they're lying or not," said assistant jail commander Chase Miller. "I will also go back and look at cam footage to see...to make sure our officers' reports are correct compared to what the body cam shows."

Since getting the cameras two years ago, Clinton County's sheriff said they haven't had a single tort claim filed by an inmate accusing an officer of misconduct.

Commanders say the atmosphere, in general, has improved: more respect, fewer lockdowns and less violence by inmates toward officers.

Any battery cases now have clear proof, so the cameras serve as deterrents.

"Because they know anything they do will be caught on body camera and if it does become physical or otherwise, I will file charges on them," Douglass explained. "But it's also helped tremendously with our staff, because they know they're being held accountable as well."

RELATED: Indiana State Police begins distributing body-worn cameras to troopers

"Before body cams, you could kind of say what you want and it was your word against an inmate's word and now that doesn't happen anymore," Miller added. "You've got to watch what you're saying and you need to be respectful."

The footage is downloaded by the officers and reviewed daily, all to keep staff and inmates safe.

Cost is often the biggest barrier to more jails getting body cams. A brand new system with about 40 cameras plus storage runs about $347,000.

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