Prison phone company denies it recorded private calls

Prison phone company denies it recorded private calls
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Prison phone system vendor Securus is denying that it improperly recorded inmates’ calls to their attorneys.

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According to a bombshell report published Wednesday by The Intercept, an anonymous hacker turned over 70 million phone records from the company that it said showed Securus violated inmates’ constitutional rights by recording their conversations with legal counsel.

Securus denies that it has done anything improper in a statement released late Wednesday.

“It is very important to note that we have found absolutely no evidence of attorney-client calls that were recorded without the knowledge and consent of those parties,” the firm said.

While recording phone calls is a routine practice, there is a carve-out for such calls to protect attorney-client privilege.

The company said that its systems have multiple safeguards to ensure private communication between inmates and lawyers is not recorded.

“Attorneys are able to register their numbers to exempt them from the recording that is standard for other inmate calls,” the company said. “Those attorneys who did not register their numbers would also hear a warning about recording prior to the beginning of each call, requiring active acceptance.”

Securus says on its website that it does not record calls between inmates and their attorneys. “All calls, except to their Attorney of Record, are subject to monitoring and recording,” the site reads.

According to The Intercept, at least 14,000 of the recorded conversations were between inmates and attorneys. It quoted David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, as saying that the breach “may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history.”

The Intercept does not suggest that the firm denied inmates and attorneys the opportunity to waive their right to private communications.

“Still, it is hard to imagine that people on either end of the line would ever anticipate that their conversations would be stored for years, in a manner that could potentially expose their intimacies to the larger public,” the publication notes. “By failing to prevent hackers from accessing the calls, Securus appears to have done just that.”

Fathi notes in the article that allowing a call to be recorded for security purposes is not the same thing as consenting to other uses of the recording.

The publication also points out that automated log systems like Securus’s that flag numbers that should not be recorded are imperfect and sometimes record calls they shouldn’t.

In 2014, a group of Austin, Texas, lawyers and civil rights activists sued a jail that used Securus — as well as other county and state officials and the technology vendor itself — for allegedly recording inmate-attorney calls and making the recordings available to prosecutors in the county and district attorneys’ offices.

The suit claimed that prosecutors were using the calls to prepare for their cases.

Reports indicated that lawyers and authorities found many problems with the Securus system during their investigation that could have caused private attorney calls to be improperly recorded.

Securus also denied Wednesday that it was hacked at all, claiming that its preliminary investigation suggests that “an individual or individuals with authorized access to a limited set of records may have used that access to inappropriately share those records.”

“We have seen no evidence that records were shared as a result of a technology breach or hack into our systems,” Securus said, noting that it is working with law enforcement to investigate the leak.

The Intercept claims that the company has been hacked before. In 2014, the publication says, someone hacked three calls made by an inmate named Aaron Hernandez, “presumably the former player for the New England Patriots, who was awaiting trial for killing a friend.”

In documents provided to The Intercept by a Texas attorney, two employees allegedly discuss the breach.

“OMG........this is not good!” reads one email. “The company will be called to task for this if someone got in there that shouldn’t have been.”