Audit agreed on after privileged communications at Douglas Co. Jail leaked

Published: Sep. 17, 2023 at 12:55 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - Officials have agreed to an audit after privileged communications between attorneys and their clients in the Douglas Co. Jail were found to be in non-privileged call logs.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office released a joint statement on Thursday, Sept. 14, after it was found there have been at least three instances of privileged calls that may have been accessed by others.

The Sheriff’s Office said it contracts with ICSolutions, a vendor who provides video and phone communication services for inmates, so that those in custody may keep in contact with their family and friends. Those communications are recorded and monitored - as stated in a disclaimer that happens at the beginning of each call.

However, the Sheriff’s Office said the system allows attorneys to also keep in contact with inmates. Attorneys are required to notify the Sheriff’s Office of any phone numbers they may use to call their clients. These calls and video visits are privileged and are not legally allowed to be monitored or recorded.

The DA’s Office noted that it has access to recordings of non-privileged calls through an agreement with the Sheriff’s Office. It does not have access to calls that are marked as privileged, such as those with attorneys.

However, on Aug. 30, the DA’s Office said one of its members was listening to a recorded call - which did include the disclaimer for non-privileged calls - and found that it was an attorney-client communication. The recording was immediately shut off and the defense counsel and Sheriff’s Office were promptly contacted.

“There was a data-entry error, and we recognize we fell short of implementing safeguards of privileged conversations,” Sheriff Jay Armbrister said. “It was unintentional, and we feel we are immediately rectifying the error and are working to make things right and notify all attorneys affected. In the interest of transparency to the public and justice system, we understand the importance of working with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office to conduct a full audit of calls accessed since the inception of the system.”

Officials indicated that the Aug. 30 incident was the first and only time a member of the DA’s office had come across a privileged communication. However, after an investigation into similar instances, three other instances were found.

The Sheriff’s Office said it quickly instituted protective measures to remedy the situation for future calls and blocked previously recorded calls from being accessed.

“Communication between an attorney and their client is sacrosanct,” District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said. “Once our office was aware of the issue of a recorded call between a defendant and their attorney, we took immediate action to resolve the matter. The Sheriff’s Office acted swiftly as well, and we look forward to working together on a system audit to ensure that no attorney communications are recorded in any way.”

The two offices said they are pooling resources to find and notify any affected parties. While neither office has reason to believe there has been any malicious intent or prejudice, both are committed to a detailed audit of the system in the name of transparency.