Securus Quietly Settles Lawsuit Over Illegally Spying On Inmate Attorney Conversations

from the dainty-little-wrist-slaps dept

We've noted repeatedly how interstate inmate calling service (ICS) companies have a disturbingly cozy relationship with government, striking (technically buying) monopoly deals that let them charge inmate families $14 per minute. Worse, some ICS companies like Securus Technologies have been under fire for helping the government spy on privileged inmate attorney communications, information that was only revealed in 2015 after Securus was hacked. Given the apathy for prison inmates and their families ("Iff'n ya don't like high prices, don't go to prison, son!") reform on this front has been glacial at best.

The 2015 Hacker-obtained data featured 70 million records of phone calls (and recordings of the phone calls themselves), placed by prisoners in at least 37 different states over a two-and-a-half year period. Of particular note were the estimated 14,000 recordings of privileged conversations between inmates and their lawyers:

"This may be the most massive breach of the attorney-client privilege in modern U.S. history, and that’s certainly something to be concerned about,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “A lot of prisoner rights are limited because of their conviction and incarceration, but their protection by the attorney-client privilege is not."

Two former prisoners and a criminal defense attorney sued Securus for the practice, and last week Securus quietly settled that suit (pdf) after spending years insisting that the recording of privileged calls was a system error. While the company promised to improve its lax use of call recording technology, most of the more significant demands were stripped from the final settlement:

"The lawsuit had sought $5,000 for anyone whose conversation was wrongly recorded – resulting in a damages payout as high as $70m – though the class action's lawyers ultimately dropped the demand after the courts repeatedly ruled against them on what they needed to prove to win the case. A US federal judge in San Diego decided the lawyers would have to prove that Securus intended to record the privileged calls. They appealed the decision, and the Ninth Circuit refused to hear the case."

Securus has promised to cover attorney costs of $840,000 and $20,000 to each of the class representatives while denying any wrongdoing.

Granted this is just one small subset of the problem that is Securus' cozy, monopolized relationship with the US law enforcement and prison apparatus, which in addition to aggressively overcharging inmate families for 20 years, has also resulted in scandals relating to the abuse of sensitive location data obtained from mobile carriers. That scandal also resulted in some performative wrist slaps and a few pinky swears as US lawmakers and regulators, with very few exceptions, continue to look the other direction.

Filed Under: attorney client privilege, conversations, inmates, phone records, prisons, surveillance
Companies: securos


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