Department of Correction

NYC Investigating Wrongfully Recorded Inmate Phone Calls Made to Legal Counsel

More than 1,500 private phone calls between city inmates and legal counsel were improperly recorded, according to reports

Rikers Island prison complex
Seth Wenig/AP, File

A new report alleging a city contractor wrongfully recorded phone calls between inmates in New York City jails and their legal representatives has prompted an investigation by city officials.

Securus Technologies, the communications firm contracted by the city to operate the phone systems in jail, has acknowledged it recorded private phone calls between inmates and their legal advisers.

The processing error recorded more than 1,500 calls made between nearly 400 inmates and their legal counsel at jails in Brooklyn and the Bronx, according to the NY Daily News who first reported the problem.

Securus' phone system relies on the DOC to provide a list of calls flagged as "private" so the company does not record those conversations. Non-private callers are notified that their call is being recorded and can end the call if they wish, the company said.

"We recently became aware of a phone number processing issue that resulted in the inadvertent recording of certain phone numbers designated as private," a company spokesperson confirmed to NBC New York. "Upon learning of the processing issue, we took immediate steps to ensure that they were designated as private, blocking any further recordings of the designated phone numbers."

Two recent audits uncovered the extent of the recordings after counsel in the Bronx notified the DOC of the problem back in December, the Daily News reported.

The city's Department of Correction is working alongside Securus to inform impacted attorneys of any improperly recorded calls.

"Confidential communication between attorneys and clients is sacrosanct and we are providing any assistance we can in order to determine the extent of their error and remedy it as soon as possible," DOC Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Peter Thorne said.

City officials investigating the DOC called this latest incident part of a "deeply troubling pattern of mismanagement" and plans to question department heads before the city council on Monday.

"These incidents are unacceptable, and they highlight systemic problems. On Monday, the Department of Correction will appear before the City Council. We expect and demand full answers," Council Member Keith Powers tweeted on Saturday, referring to the phone breach in addition to two mistaken releases of accused murders and deaths on Rikers Island.

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