Lawsuit seeks records of Shawnee County jail phone recordings – The Topeka-Capital Journal – Posted December 9, 2016 04:55 pm – Updated December 9, 2016 11:45 pm By Jonathan Shorman firstname.lastname@example.org
An open records lawsuit targeting the Shawnee County Department of Corrections seeks information about recordings of inmate-attorney phone calls, part of a lawyer’s effort to gather documents about surveillance nationwide.
The legal action, filed in Shawnee County District Court, aims to force the county to turn over a wide array of records related to potential video and phone recordings made by Securus, a Texas technology company that provides phone services to prisons throughout the country.
Securus has been drawn into an unfolding legal saga in Leavenworth, where issues surrounding attorney-client recordings have been playing out in federal court following a series of revelations earlier this year about calls made at Leavenworth Detention Center.
Questions have been raised in other jurisdictions about Securus recordings, and attorney Robert Teel’s quest for documents about prison and jail recordings now includes Shawnee County, as well as Leavenworth County, where he said he has filed a records request.
In an interview, Teel indicated he chose to file a request in Shawnee County because he was familiar with the area, having attended graduate school at the University of Kansas. He spoke with a reporter, but expressed reluctance about being quoted.
Teel also has filed open records requests in other states, including Missouri and Washington State, where he lives. He said his request in Washington State produced documents.
Teel first filed his records request with Shawnee County in February. The county, in turn, denied his request. The county cited language in the state’s open records law exempting from release correctional records pertaining to an identifiable inmate.
“In addition, the primary use this and other agencies make of the recordings you requested are investigatory,” and can be exempted under the open records law, the county wrote in its reply to Teel.
Additional correspondence followed. Teel argued the investigatory records exemption only applied to criminal investigations.
“For example, and without limitation, recordings made for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the detention facility and its detainees and staff have nothing to do with any specific criminal investigation,” Teel wrote.
Teel sued in October for the documents. On Friday afternoon, the county filed its first response to the lawsuit, arguing repeatedly the records are not public.
“Respondents request this court deny petitioner’s request as such documents are not subject to disclosure,” the filing reads.
Teel indicated his records request in Leavenworth County is ongoing. The federal Leavenworth Detention Center, run by Corrections Corporation of America, relies on the technology company Securus for phone services.
In court filings this fall, attorneys charged that their phone calls with inmates at the facility had been recorded. Video and audio recordings also came into the possession of federal prosecutors.
A Kansas attorney asserted Securus had recordings of calls between him and a client, despite repeated requests to the Leavenworth facility to not be recorded. Securus has previously told The Topeka Capital-Journal that the Leavenworth facility was responsible for designating the attorney’s number as a private, unrecorded number.
“It’s the facilities’ responsibility to designate the calls as they see fit. Our system will not record calls as long as the attorney number has been designated as ‘private.’ This designation is the responsibility of the attorney and facility/agency,” Securus spokesman Russell Roberts said in a statement at the time.
The concerns over telephone recordings, in addition to video of attorney-client meeting rooms, prompted U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson to appoint a special master to comb through recordings to determine the extent of the material.
The special master, David Cohen, on Tuesday said in a report to the court that he had analyzed 48,333 telephone audio files from the Leavenworth facility and that 204 of those calls were made to a known attorney number. But Cohen also said in his report that on Tuesday morning, prosecutors turned over additional audio files he will now also analyze.
The U.S. Attorney’s office had sought reconsideration of Robinson’s order for a review of the material, and objected to her decision to require prosecutors to pay for it. In a late November ruling, Robinson denied the prosecutors’ request.
While the recordings issue has drawn attention in northeast Kansas, Securus has been scrutinized in other places as well.
In 2014, a coalition of lawyers sued Securus in Texas over jailhouse phone recordings. The attorneys and Securus reached a settlement earlier this year requiring additional safeguards to prevent recording.
Last year, the records of more than 70 million calls were leaked to The Intercept, a news organization that focuses on investigative journalism. The trove also included approximately 14,000 attorney-client phone calls, and follow-up analysis found the number to be far higher — upward of 43,000.
Posted December 9, 2016 04:55 pm – Updated December 9, 2016 11:45 pm By Jonathan Shorman email@example.com