Cameras are objects that raise heat if you're doing any criminal acts, such as cutting, digging, chipping, fighting and searching another inmate's desk.
When a camera detects something suspicious, it will flash red and call the nearest Guard to check it. If the player alerts the camera, their Heat will increase by around 10. In TE2, cameras will alert guards if they see you in restricted areas. If it detects you damaging the prison, a Lockdown will occur (TE2 only, you are sent to Solitary in TE1). They can also alert if the player is standing on desks or looting characters.
Certain actions that will alert a guard will not alert a camera. For example, if contraband is dropped, cameras will ignore it. You can also pick up desks in sight of cameras in TE1 without heat rising.
You can use Duct Tape, Shaving Cream (PC version of TE1 only), and Toothpaste (PC version of TE1 only) to cover it temporarily. In The Escapists 2 and the Console and Mobile versions of TE1, you can only use a Roll of Duct Tape to cover it. If you shut down the generator, cameras will have no power, thus they won't be able to record any suspicious action.