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Articles about Phone Justice

Ninth Circuit: Warrantless Probationary Cell Phone Search Unconstitutional

The Ninth Circuit Court of Ap­peals has held that a warrantless, suspicionless search of a probationer’s cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment, and that evidence discovered during the search must be suppressed.

Paulo Lara was on probation for a California drug offense. His probation agreement required him to submit to warrantless, suspicionless searches of his person and property; he was also required to initial a “Fourth Amendment waiver.”

On October 2, 2013, probation officers Jennifer Fix and Joseph Ortiz arrived unannounced at Lara’s residence after he failed to appear for a meeting.

Ortiz spotted a cell phone and examined it. He reviewed the most recently sent text messages and discovered a text containing three photos of a semiautomatic handgun on a bed. The picture had been sent to “Al,” who asked if the gun was “clean.” Lara responded “yup” and Al asked “What is the lowest you will take for it?” and “How much?”

Fix and Ortiz did not find a gun in the house. They did find a knife, however, which violated the terms of Lara’s probation, and he was arrested.

Lara’s cell phone was then taken to a forensics lab for analysis. Lab ...

Report Says Private Prison Companies Increase Recidivism

by Derek Gilna

In June 2016, In the Public Interest (ITPI), a non-partisan public policy group, published a report titled “How Private Prison Companies Increase Recidivism,” based upon the fact that for-profit prisons rely upon incarceration to generate revenue – thus they have no incentive to provide rehabilitative programs that reduce recidivism. In a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, this is a recipe for disaster.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “50% of incarcerated people return to prison within three years of being released.” The ITPI report noted that “Academic research has found that incarcerating people in prisons operated by private companies, which have business models dependent on incarceration, increases the likelihood of those people recidivating.”

The report further said that while governmental agencies, which do need not to generate profit, typically operate prisons with the goals of rehabilitating prisoners and protecting public safety, private prisons are beholden to stockholders who expect to receive a return on their investment.

“Often,” ITPI wrote, “achieving the profit comes at a cost to prisoners, those who work inside the prisons, and the broader public.”

Private prison companies sell their services to government agencies on ...

California District Court Certifies Immigration Detainee Phone Access Class Action

by Derek Gilna

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California has certified for class action status a lawsuit by various immigration detainees against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The complaint, filed in December of 2013, alleged that DHS and ICE have provided telephone services that are unduly restrictive and expensive, and that the immigrant’s “constitutional and statutory rights are being violated while they are held in government custody pending deportation proceedings.

Prison Legal News has not only reported on exploitative prison phone systems, but has also participated in many lawsuits where prisoner communications with their family, friends, and legal representatives have been restricted.

According to the Court’s opinion, “ICE contracts with Yuba County, Sacramento County, and Contra Costa County to hold immigration detainees in the Yuba, Elk Grove and Richmond Facilities.”  These facilities are “geographically isolated from the San Francisco Immigration Court” as well as from “the immigration attorneys who practice removal defense, most of whom are based in or near San Francisco.”  In addition, the facilities are often geographically isolated from detainees’ family members or friends who might be able to help them in their immigration ...

PLN Interviews CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former counterterrorism consultant.

He left the CIA in March 2004, later serving as a senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and senior intelligence advisor to Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry. Kiriakou also authored a bestselling book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.

In 2007 he appeared on ABC News, during which he became the first CIA officer to confirm that the agency had waterboarded detainees, which he described as “torture.” His interview revealed that waterboarding was official U.S. policy approved at the highest levels of the government.

Federal officials began investigating Kiriakou immediately after his public comments, and five years later he was charged with multiple felonies under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies.

Eventually, to avoid a trial and potential 45 years in prison, Kiriakou opted to plead guilty to a single reduced charge in exchange for a 30-month sentence.

He reported to a federal facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania on February 28, 2013, where he continued to speak out in an online blog called Letters from Loretto.

PLN editor ...

Prison Legal News Interviews CIA Whistleblower John Kiriakou - Full Interview

 

Note: This is the full PLN interview with John Kiriakou; a shorter version was published as our April 2017 cover story, here.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former counterterrorism consultant.

He left the CIA in March 2004, later serving as a senior investigator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and senior intelligence advisor to Committee Chairman Senator John Kerry. Kiriakou also authored a bestselling book, The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror.

In 2007, he appeared on ABC News, during which he became the first CIA officer to confirm that the agency had waterboarded detainees, which he described as “torture.” His interview revealed that waterboarding was official U.S. policy approved at the highest levels of the government.

Federal officials began investigating Kiriakou immediately after his public comments, and five years later he was charged with multiple felonies under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies.

Eventually, to avoid a trial and potential 45 years in prison, Kiriakou opted to plead guilty to a single reduced charge in exchange for a 30-month sentence.

He reported to a federal facility in ...

Not So Securus

Massive Hack of 70 Million Prisoner Phone Calls Indicates Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege

by Jordan Smith and Micah Lee, The Intercept

An enormous cache of phone records obtained by The Intercept reveals a major breach of security at Securus Technologies, a leading provider of phone services inside the nation’s prisons and jails. The materials — leaked via SecureDrop by an anonymous hacker who believes that Securus is violating the constitutional rights of inmates — comprise over 70 million records of phone calls, placed by prisoners to at least 37 states, in addition to links to downloadable recordings of the calls. The calls span a nearly two-and-a-half year period, beginning in December 2011 and ending in the spring of 2014.

Particularly notable within the vast trove of phone records are what appear to be at least 14,000 recorded conversations between inmates and attorneys, a strong indication that at least some of the recordings are likely confidential and privileged legal communications — calls that never should have been recorded in the first place. The recording of legally protected attorney-client communications — and the storage of those recordings — potentially offends constitutional protections, including the right to effective assistance of counsel and of access to the ...

Securus Phone Rates Spark Uprising at Alaska Prison

A riot at an Alaska prison “kind of blew up” because, according to prisoners, the phone service provided by Securus was shoddy and the company charged unreasonable rates.

Sparked by a widespread disconnection of phone calls one Monday night in October 2015, prisoners housed in E Dorm at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center (LCCC) disabled surveillance cameras, broke a window, ripped a table out of the concrete floor and then stacked the table and mattresses against a door into the dorm, preventing guards from entering.

Shortly after midnight, however, guards were able to break through the barricade and round up an undisclosed number of prisoners, placing them all in segregation. No one was injured according to Alaska DOC officials.

“For weeks, everybody’s been on edge about [the phone rates],” an LCCC prisoner identified only as Alec told the Juneau Empire in a phone interview from the facility. “The most important things we have in here are connections with our family.”

Texas-based Securus entered into a new contract with the Alaska DOC in September 2015. Per the terms of that contract, prisoners would be able to call cell phones (which they had been unable to do previously), but Securus would ...

Jail Official Convicted of Illegally Recording Phone Conversations Loses Appeal

A former high-ranking official at a New Jersey county jail, convicted on federal charges for illegally listening to and recording the private phone conversations of jail union leaders, has lost his appeal and will remain in federal prison.

Kirk Eady, 46, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, was convicted in March 2015 on charges of illegal interception of wire, oral or electronic communications of others. On September 10, 2015 he was sentenced to 21 months in prison plus three years of supervised release.

Eady appealed, seeking to overturn his conviction and sentence on the grounds of inappropriate application of sentencing guidelines, inappropriate use of a government witness as an “expert” and improper jury instructions. His appeal was rejected by the Third Circuit on May 4, 2016.

According to the criminal complaint, Eady was a deputy director at the Hudson County Correctional Facility and represented the county in labor negotiations with unions representing guards and other employees at the jail. From March to July 2012, Eady intercepted conversations between several members of the union who, according to court documents, had criticized Eady’s work performance.

He had intercepted the calls by using an online prank service known as “Evil Operator,” which, for ...

Report Finds Criminal Justice System Financially Overburdens Prisoners and Their Families

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit focused on racial and economic policy, in conjunction with Forward Together and a dozen other community and civil rights organizations recently released a study which surveyed hardships experienced by former prisoners and their families. The study examined the experiences of over 1,080 current and former prisoners, along with their family members.

The study presented a number of striking conclusions. While almost two-thirds of families of prisoners had a hard time fulfilling basic needs, half indicated problems obtaining adequate food and shelter. This was in large part due to the primary breadwinner often being the one incarcerated, leaving their spouse and children behind to find ways to continue to get by.

The study also showed that the cost burden of incarceration and public defense systems is often placed on families of prisoners. According to the study, criminal defendants often have to pay for court fees, fines, phones calls, and commissary purchases. The court fees, which can include costs for public defenders and a jury trial fee, amounted to $13,607 for study participants; a number more than the $11,770 annual poverty line. Most criminal defendants have annual incomes below this ...

Photo of Prisoner Beaten by Georgia Gang Members Posted Online

Prisons are designed to be closed institutions, cut off from the rest of the world. Contraband cell phones, however, are opening them up and exposing the reality of what happens behind the walls. When Demetria Harris saw a photo of her son, incarcerated at the Burruss Correctional Training Center (BCTC) in Forsyth, Georgia, she was horrified.

The picture, posted online in late March 2015, had a caption that read, “When you disrespect the Nation, it brings nothing but pain and suffering.” The term “Nation” was a reference to the Gangsta Disciples gang, also known as “GD Nation.”

In the photo, Harris’ son, Cortez Berry, then 17 years old, had a swollen eye and was hunched down with a makeshift leash around his neck held by one of two prisoners standing menacingly behind him. Harris had learned of the picture and her son’s beating when a friend told her the photo, uploaded by BCTC prisoners using an illicit cell phone, was circulating on Facebook.

By the beginning of April 2015 the picture of Berry had gone viral, attracting nationwide media attention and the interest of such high-profile individuals as Reverend Al Sharpton. Shortly following the publication of the photo, a ...