New York Prisons Recording Inmate Phone Calls–Including Lawyer Calls

Calls placed by people in prisons in New York State are being recorded using flawed, racially-biased, and publicly-unproven voic
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Calls placed by people in prisons in New York State are being recorded using flawed, racially-biased, and publicly-unproven voice recognition software without the informed consent of the people placing or receiving the calls.

The voice recognition software from controversy-plagued Securus Technologies also tracks the location of the people being called from prison, including friends, family, and minor children. This means innocent people are being surveilled by DOCCS simply because they have received calls from people in prison. Their voices are analyzed, their locations are uncovered, and their voiceprints are cataloged in a database, without any meaningful oversight of where all this information goes and what it’s used for.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is apparently recording these calls without any policies in place governing who has access to the recordings of the calls, what happens to the recordings after they are logged, or procedures for ensuring that privileged calls — like those between lawyers and clients — are not recorded.

Last year, the New York Daily News reported that DOCCS unlawfully recorded nearly 2,300 attorney-client calls. Yet, based on DOCCS’ response to a NYCLU Freedom of Information Law request, DOCCS has no policies or procedures in place to prevent this from happening again.

The NYCLU has received calls from people in prison concerned that their calls with their lawyers are being recorded. If people fear their privileged calls are being listened to by prison authorities or even law enforcement, this has an obvious chilling effect on these communications. It’s impossible for lawyers to provide an adequate defense for their clients if both parties are wary of talking to each other on the phone.

DOCCS refuses to say with whom it shares this highly sensitive data or what it does with it. All we know is that prison officials are putting innocent people under a microscope, finding out who they are and even where they live without any meaningful oversight over what happens with that information.

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