Thursday, November 12, 2015

Essex Jail Attorney Calls May Have Been Compromised

prisoner-phone-call-Gilboa-PrisonA massive leak by a hacker reveals that the attorney-client privilege of people held in Essex County Jail in Elizabethtown may be compromised.

According to The Intercept, an anonymous hacker released over 70 million phone call records involving 37 states who use the phones systems of Securus Technologies, a private prison telecom company.

The leaked material includes recorded phone calls involving more than 14,000 attorneys and cover the period from December 2011 until the spring of 2014. The latest leak also shows that it’s not the first time the company’s phone records have been hacked.

Securus manages prisoner phone calls for a fee. According to it’s website, at the Essex County Jail, the company charged $15 for a half-hour call with friends or relatives, and $1 per minute for calls involving an attorney. (According to the Federal Communications Commission, some prison calls can cost up to $14 per minute.) Last month the FCC voted 3-2 to cap the fees at jails at 14 to 22 cents per minute.  In a statement issued to the press the same day, Securus said they will seek a stay of the order and appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit.

“It isn’t just Securus whose business model has relied on gouging people caught up in the criminal justice system,” The Intercept‘s Jordan Smith and Micah Lee write. “The industry’s other players, including the leading prison telecom company, Global Tel*Link, largely do the same. Prison and jail communications is a $1.2 billion a year business, whose handsome profits come from serving a captive and inelastic market. According to public relations materials, Securus provides communications platforms used by more than 1.2 million inmates across the country, who are confined in more than 2,200 facilities; by 2012 the company was processing more than 1 million calls each day. In 2014, Securus took in more than $404 million in revenue.”

According to company promotional materials, Securus’ database includes information on about 100 million calls involving 1.2 million prisoners and some 500,000 people who are not incarcerated. Smith and Lee received more than 70 million phone records, including calls to 1.3 million unique phone numbers.

Smith and Lee say the records revealed a minimum of 14,000 calls by detainees to attorneys were recorded, hacked, and released. “That 14,000 figure, however, is likely an underestimate because it does not include calls to attorney cell phone numbers,” Smith and Lee write.  “In other words, the 14,000 attorney calls are potentially just a small subset of the attorney-client calls that were hacked.”

E-mails to the Smith and Lee about the specifics of Essex County’s involvement in the hack were not returned in time for this story.

The full story can be found on The Intercept.

Photo: a prisoner phone call in Gilboa Prison (meshDETECT photo).


John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John’s Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




2 Responses

  1. gbear says:

    Or may not.

  2. Avon says:

    > The leaked material includes recorded phone calls involving more than 14,000 attorneys … potentially just a small subset of the attorney-client calls that were hacked.

    If THAT’s not a “compromise” of attorney-client privilege, then what is?

    As an attorney, of course, I feel enraged. We count on getting real facts from our clients, not lies and smokescreens. Without real facts, the system becomes a corrupt crapshoot, and nobody gets justice.

    And anybody can become enmeshed in that system, ’cause suspicions and mistakes and bad luck and coincidences happen every day.

    Intolerable. For the money they get (mostly from poor families, which ends up burdening the State), they ought to do the job right. Otherwise the citizens of the State are just being ripped off.