The Alabama Department of Corrections suspended visits to prisons across the country in March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and began issuing tablet computers to incarcerated people 11 months later to help them connect with loved ones and access resources .
However, at least one prisoner used his tablet to try to shorten his sentence. Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, convicted of several crimes related to ethical violations, used his device to try to get out of jail early by trying to change legislation that was in the works.
In 436 pages of electronic messages and 611 phone calls made through his monitored device, Hubbard used passwords with friends and family in an attempt to insert language into a bill aimed at building new prisons that would have released him earlier than his 28 months to judge. He found a willing accomplice in a State House representative that state prosecutors did not mention in the court records, but the plan faltered in an unwilling Senate.
Hubbard also repeatedly denied in those calls and emails that he had done anything wrong.
“I have not figured out how I forged the state yet,” Hubbard said in a busy call.
These electronic devices, which are handed out in Alabama prisons, are supplied and maintained by the Texas-based company Securus Technologies. The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release in late January that the department would begin issuing Personal Education Devices (PEDs) in early February.
The ADOC described the tablets as “a corrective device that offers digital educational and rehabilitative resources that would not otherwise be available in a prison environment”, which would help supplement personal classes that had been restricted due to COVID-19.
“All ADOC inmates will have free and direct access to PEDs, from which they can use available programming resources tailored to their unique needs, such as K-12 programs, GED preparation content, post-secondary and university courses, vocational training programs, job search programs, personal financial programs, spiritual / religious resources, self-help and re-entry resources, e-books and more, ”said ADOC.
Prosecutors in a lawsuit on Nov. 15, arguing against Hubbard’s request for early release, described Hubbard’s electronic communications with them from outside as “emails,” but the ADOC said the messages were not made through regular email applications such as Gmail.
“The secure communication applications include ‘e-mails’ (referred to in the trial as ‘e-mails’ but more precisely described as written digital communication between users registered in the system) and telephone call services,” ADOC said in a statement to ÅOP on Wednesday. “These services allow inmates to send messages or make calls to loved ones directly from the device. Our secure infrastructure allows digital communication but does not allow inmates to access the open internet or social media channels. Therefore, inmates cannot send.” emails ‘through traditional channels like Gmail, etc.’
The ADOC said these devices are loaded with “proprietary software that takes specific and essential measures to prevent abuse and detect any attempt at illegal behavior.” Before each phone call or message was sent, Hubbard’s unit would have informed him that his communications were subject to being monitored and recorded.
“This excludes any communication that is subject to the privilege of a lawyer / client,” the ADOC said ÅOP.
While that may be true, a 2015 hack by Securus revealed that the company had illegally recorded more than 14,000 calls between inmates and their lawyers. Securus settled a lawsuit over these recordings in 2020, but denied any wrongdoing. Securus has also faced several lawsuits due to allegations of unfair charges.