You are here

Hack of Prisoner Phone Calls Shows Violations of Right to Counsel

Inmates forfeit their right to privacy once they are behind bars. But that doesn't extend to their constitutional right to competent and effective legal counsel.

However, a massive hack of prisoner phone records exposed that an industry leader in the prisoner telecom industry has recorded at least 14,000 conversations between inmates and attorneys. The Intercept's Jordan Smith and Micah Lee reported earlier this week that Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside correctional facilities, had promised that privileged calls wouldn't be recorded. Particularly troubling is that the recordings appear to be stored indefinitely.

It is now commonplace for telecoms to record all of an inmate's phone calls and to provide notice at the start of such calls that they will be recorded. When a detainee makes a call to an attorney, the attorney-client privilege is arguable waived. But Michael Cassidy, a professor of law at Boston College Law School, told The Intercept "the Sixth Amendment right to counsel [still] applies and the government can’t interfere with it. So even if you could argue that notifying a prisoner that their calls are being recorded negates the privilege, it doesn’t negate the Sixth Amendment right to not have the government interfere with counsel.”