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Monitoring and Limiting Phone Calls by Kansas Prisoners Upheld

Prisoners can make telephone calls only collect and to persons previously placed on a list limited to 10; calls can be recorded and monitored; calls are automatically terminated when the outside party tries to transfer the call or make it a three-way call. The monitoring feature is disabled for persons identified and verified as attorneys. The telephone list can be changed every 120 days, or more frequently under some circumstances. Public officials may not be placed on the lists, but other arrangements are made to contact such "privileged persons" on a case by case basis. These calls are subject to monitoring.

Courts are divided over whether there is any First Amendment right to telephone access at all. The court does not resolve this question but upholds the restrictions under the Turner standard. They are content-neutral and unrelated to suppressing expression. They are logically connected to legitimate security interests in avoiding escape plots and the planning of assaults, other violent acts, and harassment of people outside prison. It is a "common sense assumption" that telephone restrictions serve legitimate penological purposes. Prison officials need not present evidence that the evils they wish to prevent have actually occurred.

Prisoners have alternative means of communication, i.e. visiting and correspondence. The plaintiffs' complaints of inability to call particular people under particular circumstances are dismissed because they did not try to resolve them administratively by seeking exceptions.

Expanded telephone privileges would have an effect on prison resources because of the time it takes to approve and to change telephone lists and to monitor calls. There are no obvious, easy alternatives, and other well-run prison systems use similar restrictions.

At 1296: "The legality of monitoring inmate calls to an attorney is not settled." Monitoring such calls does not deny access to courts in the absence of proof of injury as required by Lewis v. Casey. In any case the evidence did not support the existence of monitoring of legal calls, which contravened prison policy. The fact that "facility phones" are monitored is not unconstitutional given that attorney calls on the "inmate phones" are not. See: Arney v. Simmons, 26 F.Supp.2d 1288 (D.Kan. 1998).

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Related legal case

Arney v. Simmons