What does the prisoner phone-recording leak mean for prisoners and their families?

Lisa Rein writes, "On November 12th, The Intercept published a story about one of its SecureDrop uploads: 70 million records of prisoner phone data. The hack exposed that at least 14,000 phone calls between prisoners and their attorneys had been improperly recorded, and neither the calls themselves or the millions of metadata records about the calls were being stored securely."

"But the article made me wonder what it all really meant for the prisoners and their loved ones who were affected? Can they do anything to protect their rights, now that Securus' practices have been revealed? And what about the prison kickbacks that were exposed? Where is all this money from price gouging prison families going? To find out, I interviewed Alex Friedmann, Managing Editor of Prison Legal News, a monthly newsletter that gives a voice to prisoners, their families and others affected by criminal justice policies in Washington."

Lisa: So, moving forward, post-upload. Now that the fact that these calls were being improperly recorded, there could be a chilling effect, but for calls that took place before the upload, the argument would be "how could their speech be chilled if they didn't know they were being recorded?"

Alex: Correct. In effect, it's like giving officials one free bite at the constitutional apple. They're not supposed to record attorney-client phone calls, but if they do, it's hard to hold them accountable.

Lisa: Let's talk about the "kickbacks. These "kickbacks" have been reported on for years, without anyone doing anything about them?

Alex: Well, yes. Because it may be that no laws are actually being violated, due to general lack of accountability of these programs. There tends to be a lot of "wiggle room" in prison and jail budgets and very little oversight. The practice of prison phone service providers giving kickbacks to corrections agencies – up to 94% of gross revenue in some cases – is perfectly legal. And that's the problem, that it's legal.

[Lisa Rein/Aaron Swartz Day]