MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – Shelby County’s Law Enforcement, Courts and Corrections committee sought to determine Wednesday whether any of the controversial surveillance tools listed in its contract for jail phones are in use.
Commissioners questioned two county officials following an investigation by The Commercial Appeal that found the county contracted a legally questionable location tracking service — among other surveillance tools — from a vendor with a history of recording calls in violation of attorney-client privilege, in 2017.
Anthony Alexander, who manages one of Shelby County’s four lock-ups as the interim director of the corrections division, described the call recording disclaimer which plays at the onset of a call from an inmate.
Considered as a form of consent to being recorded, the disclaimer was discussed in relation to the protection of calls between attorneys and clients.
Over the last three years, in three separate counties in California and Florida, GTL has mistakenly recorded attorney-client phone calls — a potential violation of constitutional rights. According to a company spokesperson, the calls were accidentally monitored after an inaccurate “do not record” list of attorney phone numbers was uploaded to GTL’s system.
County officials did not say whether any steps have been taken to ensure the accuracy of local “do not record” lists.
Shelby County makes at least $1 million a year from phone calls made by inmates at four county facilities. Memphis Commercial Appeal
Chief Jailer Kirk Fields, of the sheriff’s office, was also present at the commission meeting. But, the sheriff’s office did not directly address the Law Enforcement, Courts and Corrections committee agenda item on GTL, regarding whether any surveillance tools listed in the contract are in use at any of the county’s three jails. Approximately 3,000 adults and dozens of children are held in county jails while awaiting trial. Another 2,000 people, approximately, are held post-conviction at the Shelby County Correctional Center.
Jeffrey Yallope, information technology manager for the county, addressed a discrepancy in the county’s contract with GTL, which details the adoption of multiple packages of surveillance services — services that county officials say aren’t in use. A location-tracking service that potentially operates contrary to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling is among them.
Yallope said the surveillance services were adopted in the contract to take advantage of a price break, but that the software was never installed.
He told The Commercial Appeal his comments apply to the jails, as well as the Shelby County Correctional Center, for which Alexander is interim director.
By: Sarah Macaraeg
Published: January 11, 2019