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Travis County Faces Lawsuit for Allowing Recording of Privileged Inmate Calls to Attorneys

Written by Allyson Walker

Images by KXAN.com and Joe Mahoney/Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

 

Recent news about a federal lawsuit against the Travis County Sheriff’s Office provides a fresh reminder of how important it is for correctional facilities to make absolutely sure their inmates’ privileged phone calls and other communications are not recorded... or it could cost them.


The suit claims that the Texas facility violated client-attorney privileges by recording constitutionally protected calls between inmates and their defense lawyers which were supposed to be confidential.


While it may represent the most recent occurrence, it is by no means the first. Privileged conversations between inmates and lawyers have been wrongly recorded at multiple facilities across the country (Davidson County, TN, Alameda County, CA, and the Alaska Department of Corrections, just to name a few.) 

 

Whose responsibility is it?

It can be argued that it isn’t the responsibility of the inmate phone provider to make sure attorney calls are exempt from recording (i.e., the onus is rather on the facility or the attorney), but that way of thinking is a little foreign to us here at Legacy. For the correctional facilities we service, we consider both the facility and their inmates to be our valued customers. Why wouldn't we do everything in our power to ensure that they don’t find themselves on the receiving end of an expensive lawsuit or have their constitutional rights violated?

 

The violation of any person's rights is a serious matter, and that includes inmates behind bars at correctional facilities. Legacy has a unique level of care and interest in inmates that simply doesn't exist with other inmate communication providers (such as the ones that service the facilities mentioned above). It is due to a key difference in the way we operate—as a true single source provider.  

 

What does outsourcing have to do with it?

The term “single source” is used very loosely in the industry, so it’s important to explain exactly what we mean by it and why we can say it but most others can’t. Most inmate phone companies outsource things like friends and family billing and customer service to outside companies, which means they aren't as directly accountable to them for providing a quality customer experience. Legacy, on the other hand, stands apart in the industry because we handle every last step involved in a facility’s inmate communications—connecting every call through our own network, providing live in-house customer care, and handling our own billing. And we’ve been doing it for nearly two decades.

 

That means we consider inmates and their friends and family our direct customers, so we have a vested interest in keeping them happy and satisfied. Allowing their constitutional rights to be violated probably isn’t the best way to go about that.

 

Our single source approach affects everything we do, including the way we service our correctional facility clients. We can do more than just say our approach to service is personal. Because we built our system from the ground up and own it completely, our in-house software engineers can regularly build custom features for each of our clients. We understand that every facility faces its own unique circumstances and challenges, and we love putting our creative minds to work to find innovative solutions for them.

          

But there’s one universal problem that all of our clients seem to face, and that’s a shortage of financial resources, with more budget cuts always on the horizon. Add a lawsuit for recording privileged inmate phone calls on top of that, and it could mean very real financial hardships that impede progress on important facility projects and programs… not to mention bad publicity. That’s why we take careful steps to ensure it doesn’t happen.

 

 

We’ve got you covered

Our service approach is proactive, which means we don’t wait until something goes wrong to act. We take intentional measures to prevent such occurrences and to protect our clients from things that could cause problems down the road.


Whenever we transition a facility to our service from another provider, we make sure that any number previously designated as privileged and non-recordable (such as attorney and clergy number) retain their status when imported into our system.  


If any privileged numbers are missing from the list given to us by the incumbent provider (i.e., they were being recorded when they shouldn’t have been), we consult with the facility to make sure all official non-recordable numbers are added to our system. This process may include referencing attorney numbers registered with the State Bar Association or other official databases.

 

Even if an attorney call somehow gets recorded (because the attorney failed to get their number registered as privileged with the facility), no attorney or inmate will ever be able to claim they did not know their call was recorded. On every call placed through our system, both parties are notified either that their conversation will be recorded, or that it is a privileged non-recorded call. All called parties are required to “press 1” to acknowledge that their call will be recorded before the system will allow the call to proceed. This protects the facility from liability. 


How much peace of mind do you have that your inmates’ privileged calls are not being recorded? Do you feel that your current provider values and takes care of your inmates and their friends and family? Does your vendor seem willing to build customized features to address your facility’s specific challenges? Let us know in the comments below, reach out to us on Facebook, or contact our team to learn more about how Legacy can meet these needs for your facility.


For additional research on this topic and to learn more about the ITS providers associated with repeatedly recording privileged attorney calls, please refer to the following links:

 

Huffington Post Crime - Texas Sheriff's Office Recorded Inmates' Calls With Attorneys, Lawsuit Alleges

 

NBC News - Recordings Raise Questions about Inmate Rights

 

KXAN News YouTube Chanel - Lawsuit accuses Travis County jail of recording calls with attorneys

 

KXAN News- Lawsuit accuses Travis County Jail of recording calls with attorneys

 

Statesman.com - Judge: Jail calls lawsuit against Travis County

 

Texas Lawyer - Lawyers Score Win in Recorded Jail Calls Lawsuit

 

GritsForBreakfast.com - Travis County Jail recorded attorney-client phone calls, gave them to prosecutors

 

ThomasReuters.com - Lawyers want court to stop Texas jail from recording talks with inmates

 

About Legacy Inmate Communications

 

Legacy is a nationwide provider and has been a leader in the inmate communications industry for nearly two decades, with headquarters in Cypress, California. The company has developed a number of state-of-the-art inmate communications platforms, such as iCON, WatchWord+, and iCONTracker. Legacy is unique in that it is a single-source provider, researching, developing, building integration, and implementing every aspect of its inmate telephone and video visitation systems. For more information, please visit:

 

www.legacyinmate.com

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Comments (1) -

  • Emanuel Shellhaas

    6/3/2015 8:51:51 AM | Reply

    You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your website.

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