Recently, one of the nation’s major telecommunication services for incarcerated persons was hacked by an entity known as The Intercept. This hack reveals the extent and scope of information collected on inmates in the corrections system within the United States.
The Intercept hack of Securus managed to collect more than 70 million individual records of phone calls. The information obtained included: the number called; the date, the time, and the duration of the call; the inmate’s Securus account number; as well as other information including a recording URL to the location where a recording of calls can be downloaded. Interestingly, of the 70 million calls obtained by The Intercept, approximately 14,000 of the calls were calls between an inmate and their attorney. These calls ranged in duration from under one minute to over an hour. Importantly, in Pennsylvania it is illegal for the state to use recordings of conversations between an inmate and their attorney. This would be a violation of the Attorney-Client privilege and is strictly forbidden. One might think that means that inmate/attorney calls are never recorded, but experience has shown that is not the case.
In Pennsylvania inmates are notified of the potential for wiretapping and surveillance, codified under 18 Pa.C.S. §5704 (13). Notification is accomplished through the use of an Inmate Telephone Authorization Form, containing a notification clause, as well as through the posting of surveillance notices at every telephone location accessible for inmate use within the facility. In many instances the person called by the inmate receives a recorded notification at the beginning of the call informing them that the call may be monitored or recorded, but that is not always the case. For instance, some inmates call a friend who then places a conference call to a third person who would have no idea the call is recorded. In Montgomery County inmates can make calls from counselor phones which contain no warning (and may not be recorded at all).
As the hack conducted by The Intercept demonstrates, anything said on the telephone with an inmate can be, and likely is, monitored and recorded. A good rule of thumb is that if you would not want to see the content of your conversation broadcast on the news, or published on the front page of the New York Times, you should probably avoid the conversation.