FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union opposes Pinal County installing cameras in lawyer-inmate interview rooms at the jail.
The county attorney’s office says authorities trying prevent contraband from being passed have installed cameras in rooms where defense attorneys speak privately with their clients, the Casa Grande Dispatch reported.
Twice since the installation last month, public defenders have asked judges to postpone court hearings because they haven’t been able to have private discussions with their clients, citing the cameras.
Sheriff Mark Lamb and County Attorney Kent Volkmer say the cameras don’t record audio and are pixelated so documents or lips cannot be read from the video.
“In our view, this is very problematic that they are recording these interactions,” Jared Keenan, ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney, told the newspaper. “The conversations between an attorney and client is protected and supposed to be private. Even if they are not recording sound, there are still a lot of things that they would be able to see.”
Keenan said that if attorneys and inmates meet after a court hearing, jailers might be able to detect subtle clues from their body language or facial expressions.
Once video is allowed into this sensitive meeting area, Keenan said it’s possible the video and audio quality could be upgraded and improved in the future.
“Any interaction that is recorded violates the attorney-client privilege,” he said. “The reason that privilege exists is to encourage frank communication between attorney and client. If you stick a camera in what should be a private meeting room between attorney and client, it likely will have a chilling effect on what types of conversations occur in that situation.”
The ACLU also is concerned about the videoed interactions possibly ending up on a national television show, Keenan said.
But Volkmer said the way everything is set up, video of attorneys talking to clients cannot be used on TV.
He said the video is taken from the ceiling looking downward and faces cannot be seen, unless the defense attorney looks up at the camera. The inmate’s face will not be recorded, and they cannot see the surveillance camera.
“They can’t see it. I would tell them that it is there if I were the defense attorney. They should have the right to know that,” Volkmer told the Dispatch.