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Optimizing Video Surveillance in Correctional Settings

NCJ Number
Date Published
21 pages

This resource provides a technical summary report of the Urban Institute’s evaluation of an audio-analytic technology system, implemented in two Minnesota state prisons, with the goal of optimizing their surveillance systems.


This document provides a technical summary report of the Urban Institute’s evaluation of efforts with the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC) to improve the surveillance systems in two of the state prisons: the Stillwater Correctional Facility (STW) and Moose Lake Correctional Facility (ML). The report describes the evaluation process of a study that sought to conduct a rigorous process and impact evaluation of the steps that STW and ML have taken to optimize their surveillance systems. Those steps included: repositioning existing cameras; installing new cameras; and making other infrastructural upgrades. ML additionally integrated an audio-analytic technology in its system that would alert on-unit security staff via visual and audio alert if it detected sounds associated with anger, fear, or verbal aggression. The evaluation study used a mixed-methods research design with qualitative data collection, including stakeholder interviews and in-depth observations of the camera operations at both facilities. Findings from the study provided limited evidence that the intervention reduced misconduct but the authors report finding that the installation of cameras in new locations to reduce blind spots resulted in an increase in the number of guilty dispositions. The report notes that upgrades seemed to support misconduct investigations by aiding staff to identify people who committed or witnessed incidents; and it discusses challenges involved in the integration and use of the audio-analytic technology.

Date Published: January 1, 2024