A Private Prison Company Gave 1,300 Recordings of Confidential Inmate Phone Calls to Prosecutors

Kansas’ US Attorney’s Office has admitted listening to opposing lawyers’ conversations.

Thinkstock/ Getty Images

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

More than 1300 private conversations between a private prison’s inmates and their lawyers were recorded according to information in a new lawsuit against CoreCivic, the private company running the facility, and its technology provider Securus Technologies. Numerous charges and convictions against the inmates could ultimately be overturned if a judge finds prosecutors violated attorney-client privilege by listening to the recordings.

The court filings describing the newly disclosed recordings follow another civil lawsuit and a long-running federal investigation into actions by the Kansas US Attorney’s Office that authorized the recordings. The civil suits seek at least $10 million in damages and demand the company cease recording confidential conversations.

The possibility of recording at the CoreCivic (formerly known as the Correction Corporations of America) pre-trial detention facility in Leavenworth first emerged in 2016 when footage of an attorney client meeting, subpoenaed by a grand jury in a prison drug smuggling case, came to light. Outcry from criminal attorneys that the recordings violated inmates’ 6th amendment rights prompted Kansas federal district court Judge Julie Robinson to order all detention facilities in Kansas and Missouri, including those run by CoreCivic, to cease recording any privileged conversations. 

A special independent master, David R. Cohen, was appointed to investigate the matter at Leavenworth, finding just 200 recorded calls. The disclosure of 1100 further calls made between 2011 and 2013 is explained by Cohen having only examined calls connected with the initial case. The revelation comes only a month after the Kansas US Attorney’s Office, which had been withholding information from Cohen’s investigation, announced it was ready to reach an agreement to begin cooperating with Cohen and the Federal Public Defenders Office, whose clients were recorded. While prosecutors have admitted to listening to the recordings in the smuggling case, it’s unclear the extent to which they may have done so in other cases.

This isn’t the first time the Leavenworth facility has attracted negative attention. Mother Jones covered a 2017 Justice Department audit that identified “poor oversight” and “severe understaffing.” And Securus, the company responsible for recording the calls, has previously faced legal action for illegally recording communications between lawyers and detainees. In 2016 The Intercept reported that the company had settled with the Austin Lawyers Guild, the Prison Justice League, and several individual defense attorneys over a suit alleging Securus recorded privileged communications with their clients. A 2015 hack of 70 million recorded calls between December 2011 and spring 2014 contained at least 57,000 privileged calls.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate