The Walls Have Ears: Why You Should Limit What You Say in Jail
If someone’s in jail, it is common for s/he to make phone calls to lawyers, family, and friends. It may be very tempting for s/he to say quite a bit on these phone calls – how they got in jail, what the allegations are, etc. It may seem safe to say things on these phone calls – but that is indeed a terrible idea. It is not safe at all and these conversations can be used against you.
All calls from Texas jails are monitored. Phone calls to lawyers are not supposed to be monitored and recorded but we cannot be sure that they are not. All other calls are for sure monitored and recorded. Law enforcement is listening for admissions of guilt, intimidation of witnesses, promises made to get witnesses not to testify, statements made to further a conspiracy – all kinds of things that can be very detrimental to a criminal case and valuable for the prosecution.
These calls can be used as probable cause to charge others with offenses or cause the investigation of other people. They can be used as evidence in the person in jail’s case. The prosecution can use these calls in trial and in plea negotiations. They are admissible – even if the defendant didn’t know s/he was being recorded.
Indeed, if the defendant makes overtures against witnesses to intimidate them not to testify, this can be used in “forfeiture” proceedings in which the prosecution can fight to admit witness statements even if the witness does not testify. These statements can be admissible over objections by the Defendant that he did not have the right to confront the witness. By intimidating the witness the state will argue the Defendant forfeited his right to confront that witness. This is very common in family violence cases.
In-person visits in most Texas jails are recorded and monitored. In just the same way as statements made in phone calls can be used against the defendant, s/he should expect that incriminating statements made in visits can be introduced as well. The recordings can and will be played to a jury if the case goes to trial.
Law enforcement and private corporations that service correctional facilities are advancing the technology with which they use to monitor prisoners’ communications. They are working to develop voice recognition software to determine if the inmate used another inmate’s account to make the call. They may be developing rapid cell phone location determining technology to find the location of the person the inmate is talking to from jail.
All in all it’s a bad idea to say too much on jail calls. Make all calls with the knowledge that you are being recorded and the recordings will be passed on to the prosecution in your case.
Lastly, a word to the wise, don’t call family and then have the family member call your attorney on a three-way call. If you do that, the attorney’s number will not be recognized and that attorney call will not be exempted from routine recording of all calls. It will therefore not be confidential.
Be careful when you are in jail. You have zero privacy and your words will be used against you.