Another Prison Phone Service Caught Recording Privileged Conversations And Passing Them On To Law Enforcement

from the criminals-on-both-sides-of-the-bars dept

A few years back, prison communications provider Securus was caught -- via hacker-obtained data -- recording privileged calls between inmates and their legal reps. Yes, ALL CALLS ARE RECORDED, as the sign says, but certain calls shouldn't be. Securus did it en masse, hoovering up 14,000 privileged calls over an unspecified time period. The total could be much higher than that. The data obtained only covered part of Securus' massive network, with 12,000 privileged calls alone in this data dump coming from a single state.

Now, another prison phone company has been caught recording privileged conversations and turning them over to law enforcement.

An Orange County Sheriff’s Department employee revealed this week during a court hearing that the department improperly recorded more than 1,000 privileged phone calls between county jail inmates and their attorneys over a three-year period.

An employee with Global Tel Link Corp., a contractor that oversees the jail phone system, wrote in a July 27 letter to Sheriff Sandra Hutchens — obtained by the Daily Pilot on Thursday — that an update in the company’s system in January 2015 caused “a technical error” that led to 1,079 such phone calls being recorded, in violation of state law.”

In violation of state law. It violates a lot of things, not just state law. But that's OK, state law enforcement was there to make sure laws were enforced.

Senior Deputy District Atty. Cynthia Nichols, the prosecutor in Waring’s case, became aware of the issue during Boston’s testimony Monday in Orange County Superior Court.

Nichols asked him during the hearing whether the Sheriff’s Department has made any effort to contact the district attorney or defense attorneys whose phone numbers and client communications were compromised.

“Not to my knowledge,” [director of inmate services Greg] Boston responded.

The law was broken and no one on the law enforcement side did anything to fix it. That split-second decision made during an rapidly-evolving situation (or whatever) may come back to haunt Boston and his Sheriff's department cohorts. In this mess of 1,000 calls hang 58 serious criminal cases, running the gamut from gang-related charges to the attempted murder prosecution of the offspring of a reality TV star.

The "technical error" was exposed during the trial of Joshua Waring, the son of a star of "Real Housewives of Orange County." Inmate services director Greg Boston testified during this case, exposing Global Tel Link's screwup and the apparent partaking of ill-gotten goods by local law enforcement.

The Orange Court Sheriff's Department claims it instructed the service provider to fix the problem when it discovered it had access to privileged recordings. But that hardly explains how Global Tel Link managed to record 1,000 calls it never should have recorded before someone on either end actually noticed the issue. According to Waring's attorney, the "technical error" went unaddressed for three years, suggesting the OCSD didn't mind having access to privileged conversations, even when it knew the recordings were illegal under state law.

And the official statement from the OCSD covers only part of the problem. Telling the provider to stop intercepting privileged calls is one thing. Deciding to keep this information to itself, rather than pass it on to affected legal reps and the DA's office, isn't nearly so noble or proactive.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 3:49am

    Oh but they were acting in good faith so they get immunity.
    You're guilty so you have no rights.

    If only there were serious punishments for this sort of bull.
    Think 100K a recorded call that shouldn't have been might motivate them to lock their shit down & be upfront right away?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 4:18am

      Re:

      I'd be okay with a $1K fine per call, so long as it was levied personally against each of those involved. Seeing multiple individuals rather than a department hit with hundred thousand dollar fines should nicely send the message that actions/indifference aren't allowed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 6:44am

        Re: Re:

        fines do not work, they just become incorporated into the cost structure.

        On top of that, charging them personally just makes bosses create stooges out of their bitches.

        Jail time for the people in power enabling the behavior, period!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 7:05am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Have the executives serve the time of those they violated.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 9:33pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well the fines would work in that situation because it would undermine cooperation. The benefits go to the top so asking employees to risk thousand dollar personal fines would get told to 'fuck off' like if their boss asked them to withdraw one thousand dollars from their personal bank accounts to put in the register.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 25 Aug 2018 @ 4:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Fines in cases like this don't work because those responsible never pay them, it's always shifted to the department and in turn the taxpayers, which in turn effects the gain vs risk calculation, where they have everything to gain by violating the law and absolutely nothing to lose other than maybe getting a mild slap on the wrist.

          Hit those personally responsible and suddenly there would be a very real reason to pay attention to the law, just like it works for everyone without a badge.

          As for bosses just shifting the blame if the rank and file know that they'd face ruinous fines for doing something they'd be much more likely to refuse orders to do it, and nothing shields the bosses from getting slapped with the fine as well in any case.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      It should be called having the judge throw out all convictions secured in cases where this was illegally recorded and handed over to prosecution.

      Prosecutors and law enforcement have to be punished with the threat of their convictions (and plea bargains) being overturned, otherwise they'll just keep doing this crap again and again knowing there's no risk to it. That's why the SCOTUS overturned one person's murder conviction and let him go free when the courts let the jury go home and watch evening news coverage of their high profile trial (coverage which was very negative towards the defendant).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      There are serious punishments for this sort of bull: Anyone caught leaking the bull's existance, will wish they had kept their mouth shut.

      It's what the people wanted. They wanted a tyrannical government to protect them, and that's exactly what they got.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        You speak of "the people" as though they were a homogeneous unit moving and acting in a uniform and coordinated manner towards a common goal, this is silly. Why do you continue to make such obviously incorrect statements?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 4:30am

    "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

    An employee with Global Tel Link Corp., a contractor that oversees the jail phone system, wrote in a July 27 letter to Sheriff Sandra Hutchens — obtained by the Daily Pilot on Thursday — that an update in the company’s system in January 2015 caused “a technical error” that led to 1,079 such phone calls being recorded, in violation of state law.”

    See this, I can actually buy. Tech can screw up in any number of ways, so it's entirely feasible that an update would cause that sort of malfunction, and had they actually wanted to stop listening in, that should have been the end of it.

    One quick phone call or email informing the company that the last update now has the service operating in violation of state law, a hurried patch, and a purge of any calls accidentally collected in the meanwhile and this would have been a non-story, nothing worth pointing out other than perhaps a sheriff's department getting it right and acting honorably and legally.

    That however, is not what happened.

    You don't excuse three years worth of illegally collected calls by dumping it on a 'technical glitch'. They knew damn well what they were doing wasn't legal, and they didn't care so long as it allowed them to listen in to calls they had no business hearing.

    The original 'technical glitch' was a mistake. Letting it stand for three years without bothering to try to get it fixed was absolutely not, and all those involved need the hammer brought down on them hard for such blatant indifference to violation of the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 5:28am

      Re: "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

      Other than the number at one end of the conversation, assuming that an office number is used, there is nothing to identify a privileged call, except for its content. Therefore it would be a surprise is privileged calls were not frequently and regularly recorded.

      Whenever a collect it all tactic is used, there will always be the gathering of privileged or legally excluded infomation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 5:49am

        Re: Re: "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

        They managed to avoid violating the law just fine before the glitch, so it would seem they'd figured out how not to listen in to/record privileged calls before that just fine. As such I'm not buying the 'they had no way to tell' argument, because it seems pretty clear that they did, they just took advantage of a glitch that resulted in those calls being recorded.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 6:19am

          Re: Re: Re: "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

          >They managed to avoid violating the law just fine before the glitch,

          I did point out that the one means of identification of a (usually) privileged call is a phone number based do not record list. A glitch that switches that off, and is not detected and fixed within a very short period of time, is more than just a glitch, it is either a lack of software testing, or a deliberate action by someone.

          Also note, that the users of the system that benefited by the glitch did nothing to get it fixed, as they could see a benefit from the situation.

          Even with such a list, some privileged calls will be recorded because a new attorney number is being used etc, or the attorney is not using their normal phone for some reason

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 7:09am

        Re: Re: "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

        Whenever a law is put into place where the existing system is making money ignoring it, it should be no surprise that the criminal activity continues unabated.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re: "A crime has occurred! But you know, take your time fixing it."

        If the recording system cannot limit illegal recording, they shouldn't be recording anything. They could've gone over to the mall and picked up a few cellphones if they had trouble disabling the system.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 5:55am

    Recording is not the real issue.

    While the company recording the calls obviously should not have been doing so the real problem is that the used the information from the calls.

    What should have happened.

    Global: We recorded some calls we should not have.
    OCSD: You need to fix that but in the mean time go ahead and delete the attorney calls.

    If this had happened even if it was over a long time period there would not really be much of a story.

    With the volume of calls they are dealing with I can see some calls getting recorded that should not have. No not as many as were recorded and not for as long as they were recording them but the fact that some non-zero number of call were recorded is pretty much inevitable.

    The real crime however is that the cops and prosecutors used those recording to help prosecute those inmates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 6:32am

      'It was a mistake' only flies if you don't KEEP doing it

      As with many cases involving the police I'd be a lot more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them a pass for mistakes if their response to them was 'that was bad and should not have happened/been done, let's do what we can to make sure it doesn't happen again' rather than 'that was bad but it benefits us in some way, let's make sure we can continue to do it and/or ignore the one doing it.'

      As I noted above, the original error that resulted in the wrong calls being recorded was likely an honest mistake. Their response to that most certainly wasn't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 8:04am

      Re: Recording is not the real issue.

      Isn't the real problem not only that the information was used to inform the prosecutors what the defense strategy was in order to gain convictions, but also that now those cases are complete, the defense strategy is again known, and even offering a retrial would not rectify the harm, especially if the defendant was found not guilty the second time around.

      Also, as I am not a lawyer, shouldn't the possession of such information be considered Brady material? It would most certainly be embarrassing, but isn't the prosecutor required to give up any information that might aid the defense. That the prosecutors had illegal privileged information would have certainly helped the defense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 9:50am

    Common Mindset

    I think this is just another symptom of what I see as a common mindset amongst law enforcement.

    It seems, from my point of view, that most law enforcement thinks that illegally obtained evidence is only illegal if you try to submit it as admissible evidence in a court of law.

    It never seems to dawn on them that it was ALWAYS illegal and they should not have obtained such evidence in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 24 Aug 2018 @ 11:50am

    ????? QUESTION..

    YOUR FOLKS/FRINEDS/FAMILY paid how much for that Phone call??
    FOR services that represent PRIVACY???

    AND the STATE, does not consider recordings, WITHOUT PERMISSION, ILLEGAL??

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 12:02pm

    These scumbags including women gathered around the screen when they xrayed my body at stark county jail in canton ohio to look at the size of my genitals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Larry Smith, 26 Aug 2018 @ 3:52pm

      Re: Prison privacy invasion by XRay

      @ Anonymous Coward--This doesn't SURPRISE ME, in the LEAST !!!! These HYPOCRITES supposedly "enforcing the Law" are some of the biggest WIERDOS AND PERVERTS on the face of the planet !!!!!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2018 @ 12:05pm

    Did they need a magnifying glass?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 25 Aug 2018 @ 12:22pm

    Can You Hear Me Now?

    Another Prison Phone Service Caught Recording Privileged Conversations And Passing Them On To Law Enforcement

    All persons using any Prison Phone Service should operate under the premise that all Conversations are being recorded and passed along to Law Enforcement.

    As a matter of fact all persons using any phone service should operate under the premise that all conversations are being recorded/stored for potential future use by Law Enforcement.

    We are all under surveillance 24/7/365 (eg financial, phone, internet, vehicle, facial recognition, commercial travel, etc).

    Welcome to the police state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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