back to article Prisons transcribe private phone calls with inmates using speech-to-text AI

Prisons around the US are installing AI speech-to-text models to automatically transcribe conversations with inmates during their phone calls. A series of contracts and emails from eight different states revealed how Verus, an AI application developed by LEO Technologies and based on a speech-to-text system offered by Amazon, …

  1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Those Brightest of Stars in the Erotic Exotic East are Extremely Difficult to Never Beat

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Those Brightest of Stars in the Erotic Exotic East are Extremely Difficult to Never Beat

      It's late Saturday night and I've had way too many glasses of wine, but this just reads like word soup. Is it me / the wine or this post?

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Those Brightest of Stars in the Erotic Exotic East are Extremely Difficult to Never Beat

        It is word soup.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: IT's Not Word Soup

          It is word soup .... katrinab

          It is not word soup for those delving long and diving deep into Special AIResearch Services with Advanced Alien Applications Augmenting Virtual Reality Presentations, katrinab. It is Ambrosia and as Nectar to Global Operating Devices.

          And to doubt and opine that it is not so, is to provide ITs AI the Immaculate Stealth which aids and guarantees both the unhindered and successful practical and virtual progress which helps establish and protect secure unassailable leading positions planning for future events from the safe havens of relatively anonymous and designedly untouchable forward operating bases.

          Tell us all here now that is not Virgin Space Territory to Explore and Populate and Virtual Team Terrain to Stream and Colonise, and you will be wrong, and demonstrably shown to be so in upcoming near future unfolding events presented by/to Mass Multi Media Great Game Changer Players and El Regers alike.

          Thanks for the opportunity to more fully clarify the residual persistently perplexed confusion which would deny one the one small step and giant quantum leap for Humankind which transports them further on and along into Fields of Endeavour and Success never ever before even dreamed of as being Remotely Possible and Highly Likely ....... and thus Inevitable as a Current Running Reality for Experiencing Powerful Command and Control Experiments in ExtraTerrestrial Existentialism.

          And one of those AWEsome Type Projects the Status Quo be too terrified to freely inform you about because they and their systems neither own nor effectively direct it ?????

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: IT's... ...Word

            Peace on you, Brothers and Sisters Christians

          2. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: IT's Not Word Soup

            Google Translate doesn't have a Martian -> English option, so I have no idea what you are saying.

            1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

              Re: IT's Not Just Word Soup whenever Super Helpful

              Google Translate doesn't have a Martian -> English option, so I have no idea what you are saying. ...... katrinab

              Would its accurate transcription into a Far or Middle Eastern Kingdom tongue help you, katrinab? Russian or Chinese or Arabic or Japanese or what about a Gaelic or Gallic rendition?

              I can though help you if you are struggling to understand the significance of the AWEsome Type Projects reference, for here is some perfectly accurate old info on such a matter [circa 30th September 2019] noting the proposed scope of future operations therein to be exercised and experimented on.

              Some other vital bits are stored elsewhere to reveal more but there is more than enough made available below to render a true flavour of the feast/confection/concoction offered for immediate deliveries ...... [Did you miss all that intel whenever it were earlier shared here on El Reg?]

              This submission claims to be able to address and aid, to a greater or lesser degree, all of the five questions the Army has asked …… via the Presentation of the Results and Vital Actions taken for Future Realisation in/with/of Global Events BroadBandCasting Advanced IntelAIgent Memes with Almighty Means in All Main Streaming Live Media Systems and Alternative Underground Movements ….. and here on a Stealthy Exercise and Who Dares Win Wins Operation and looking forward to engagement and enjoyment in these new fangled and entangling reports of NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT with/from Alternate Sources to create Totally Different, and more Equitable and Mutually Beneficial Outcomes.

              With the simple expedient of rather than seeking to portray the ways and means to a heavenly destination/perfectly new staring point, with everything newly discovered on the way, novel and exciting, why not try committing and submitting to Virtual Experimentation in a Not So Top Secret Anymore Program with Advanced IntelAIgent Commands and Future Control[s] in VAIOSystems of Universal Administration.

              Further Proprietary Intellectual Property Access Rights are required to acquire and deliver so very much more and all else necessary too ……. for such a Program and Project as the above is quite easily Almightily Weaponised for/with wanton and wilful abuse and disastrous misuse ….. although one is always to be well enough warned and advised that any and all such abuse and misuse always results in punitive, catastrophically counterproductive sanction with miscreants relentlessly and ruthlessly pursued for overwhelming prosecution and deserved persecution.

              N.B. … This Program is only suitable for Prime Leading Principals/Organisations exercising Geopolitically Sensitive Applications.

              Both test experimental and operational theatre environments are relatively anonymously virtually created and populated to field elements/land forces by virtue of their presentation in any number of diverse, suitably cloaked news/media productions with the Technology Readiness Level for all such as is proposed and revealed here in this submission and/or discovered in any further deeper program investigation of Past Principal Activity being of no valid negative concern.

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              * Advanced Cyber Threat/Treat

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              Such is a current ACTive IT and AI Battlefield and Virtual Graveyard for the many Arrogant and Ignorant who never imagined such things as being possible as they ploughed their own selfish greedy furrow in worlds before Sublime InterNetworking Networks for Hearts and Minds Capture.

              Does the UKGBNI MOD see itself engaged in such an experiment/experience as an independent leading role player or more simply just as support staff following orders from/for other state and non-state actors?

              And would the former be tantamount to a Stealthy SMARTR AI Military coup, which is what it can easily be spun as by a blind-sided opposition or right dodgy competition?

              Would that be of an EMPowering Interest to Astute Militarised Organs of Defence into providing NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Protection to Command and Control of the Virtualised Machine with Commanding Control of Computers and Communications in Epic New COSMIC Realms ….. Advanced IntelAIgent Streams?

            2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

              Re: IT's Not Word Soup

              Does anyone want to bet and invest anything worthwhile in support of Uncle Sam testing alienating waters for engaging hostile foe/fearless hostiles and friendly fiends/fiendish friends? ....... Budget Impasse Could Derail Pentagon’s New Tech Experimentation Campaign ........ or are you comfortably numb in the dark sat astride the proverbial fence?

              Have you any idea at all about anything spooks and special forces are really heavily into ........ and which you might be told, as has been traditionally the case of yore, are in your very best interests?

              My educated guess is that practically nobody has an FFFFFFFFing clue, which is maybe just as well, given what they can do to you, just appearing out of nowhere in a flash to disappear again just as quickly whenever strange deeds are all done and trails are dusted clean of tell tale signs of alien engagement.

              1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

                Re: IT's Not Word Soup .... and deep down you know it is not, if you be honest with yourself

                Have you any idea at all about anything spooks and special forces are really heavily into ........

                And with specific regard to what most everyone/everything might currently think and identify as traditional unconventional spooks and special forces, the longer they continue to behave as they are presently programmed and/or ordered to do by their commanders and leaderships in these novel times with NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTivated IT and AI Spaces with Virtual Places, the greater the wider realisation elsewhere that they themselves are totally lost in field operations and all at sea with no float aids in a vast ocean teeming with ravenous sharks doing what ravenous sharks do best.

                Indeed, as earlier revealed, the Pentagon practically admitted it be so and it would certainly surely know before most anything/anyone else.

            3. Patched Out

              Re: IT's Not Word Soup

              What amanfromMars 1 posted IS the Google English translation. It makes much more sense in its native Martian.

          3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

            Re: IT's Not Word Soup

            katrinab wrote: "It is word soup."

            amanfromMars 1 wrote: "Thanks for the opportunity to more fully clarify ..."

            Shakespeare wrote: "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,

            And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,

            I will be brief."

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Those Brightest of Stars in the Erotic Exotic East are Extremely Difficult to Never Beat

        I think it's great that amanfromMars has popped up once again on an article about AI.

        1. cyberdemon Silver badge

          Re: Those Brightest of Stars in the Erotic Exotic East are Extremely Difficult to Never Beat

          Amanfrommars1 is a word soup generator, sorry, statistically plausible randomised sentence generator, er I mean "AI", operated by a bored human, so far as I understand. Right?

  2. a_yank_lurker


    In Feraldom prisoner phone conversations are routinely monitored and recorded while in jail/prison. The only difference is the calls are being transcribed by 'AI' which makes me question the accuracy of the transcription.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: Difference?

      I would hope that in the event of anything of interest being flagged up by the AI transcription process, the original recording of the conversation would be checked to find out whether anything untoward had occurred, like threatening someone, or such like. But as it seems reasonably easy to smuggle mobile phones into prison these days, any serious criminal would probably be using their own phone, not a prison phone, for felonious purposes.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Difference?

        It seems from the article that one of the main priorities is to intercept complaints from prisoners that might result in lawsuits against the prison.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: Difference?

          and the irony that there seem to be activists for "Prisoner Privacy", like this is "UPSIDE DOWN CLOWN WORLD" or something...

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Difference?

            If prisoners don't have rights, then neither does anyone else. If a right can be taken away from you by something as capricious as a court, then it was never really yours to begin with.

            So unless the penal code explicitly says "during your term of imprisonment you have zero expectation of privacy", prisoner privacy is an important right that deserves protection.

            1. Glen 1

              Re: Difference?

              "If a right can be taken away from you by something as capricious as a court, then it was never really yours to begin with."

              Like a person's citizenship?

              1. anothercynic Silver badge

                Re: Difference?

                Indeed that is the case. Just because you were born somewhere does not make you a citizen. Ask all those born in Uganda who Idi Amin evicted, telling them to get the hell out. The parents of our illustrious Home Secretary are amongst those who this happened to. And that's just *after* the second World War. Before that, scores of Jewish people suddenly found themselves stateless because the countries they had been citizens of summarily cancelled their citizenship in a fit of national-socialist fervour. Citizenship only exists on paper, and with one decree or signature, that can be cancelled in an instant.

                Begum is an interesting case in that UK authorities claim she has Bangladeshi citizenship, which gave them the opportunity to strip her of her British citizenship (which many say 'she has by birth', but the British law has no such clause), and which Bangladesh vehemently denies. There might be a case that she *could* claim it, but I'm sure the Bangladeshis don't want an ISIS-sympathiser (whether voluntarily or not) to be given citizenship in retrospect and all the bad rep that goes along with it, especially given the country regularly needs help from the international community. Either way, the way it's been done (regardless of whether Begum is guilty or innocent of terrorism charges) is somewhat... suspect. I'm sure the legal profession has plenty to say about that.

                1. Insert sadsack pun here

                  Re: Difference?

                  "Ask all those born in Uganda who Idi Amin evicted, telling them to get the hell out. The parents of our illustrious Home Secretary are amongst those who this happened to..."

                  As a pedantic point that doesn't really affect the overall arc of your argument: Patel's parents left Uganda while Milton Obote was still in charge, and years before Amin came to power. Amin's expulsion of the Asian Ugandans began in August 1972, several months after Patel's birth in London.

                  1. anothercynic Silver badge

                    Re: Difference?

                    Ah, my apologies. I had been under the impression they'd been given the heave-ho along with the tens of thousands who subsequently ended up on British shores. Ta muchly for the correction :-)

              2. veti Silver badge

                Re: Difference?

                Indeed, that's a principle worth fighting for. I believe your home secretary has gone on record as saying that citizenship is not a right. If you can't see the danger in that claim...

                In the USA, people are considered to have rights to do anything within the law. If the law says that an imprisoned person has no privacy, then that's fine. (Anyone who feels that law is unreasonable has various recourses to challenge it, but that's not what we're discussing right now.)

                But if no one bothered to write that into the law, then whatever the legal basis is for invading a prisoner's privacy - is a legal logic that can also be applied to anyone else.

                1. Wellyboot Silver badge

                  Re: Difference?

                  Also, under US law 'within the law' basically means not explicitly controlled or prohibited by law. Precious few jurisdictions have this concept.

                  Wire-tapping (as this is) is controlled by law therefore the oversight procedures are already in place.

                  Privacy is reduced for the incarcerated* but there are laws giving explicit privacy when they speak to their lawyers so this software had better know which numbers are off limits - which I doubt.

                  *They are after all subject to being watched 24/7

                  1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

                    Re: Difference?

                    I think the title may be incorrect in referring to "private" phone calls by prisoners except with lawyers. But also it's the sort of thing where you could find that legislation doesn't apply to wiretapping by an AI in or near to a privately owned prison, unless you make sure that it does.

                    And we have repeated cases where, whoops, conversations with the lawyer shouldn't have been recorded and they were. But no harm done, eh?

            2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              Re: Difference?

              In the UK, even prisoners have the right to a private conversation with their lawyer, although I recall therefore some instances of the rooms being bugged in some prisons.



              The starting point is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). RIPA provides a statutory backcloth to all covert police operations so that all such operations must be properly authorised. This requirement for proper authority emanated not from a Government desire for its citizens to know and understand the power of the authorities; but because it had to under human rights law. Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights established, even before the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, the right to privacy. Any surveillance is a breach of privacy. Of course, surveillance is also a necessary and legitimate tool in the fight against crime. The problem is getting the balance right between allowing the State to watch us and preventing law enforcement authorities from becoming oppressive 'Stasi' type agencies paying no regard to our rights. The Human Rights Act is the protection from State abuse.


              1. mark l 2 Silver badge

                Re: Difference?

                In the UK prisoners can expect pretty much no privacy when it comes to personal letters and phone calls, the prison rules allow them to be recorded or live monitored to ensure that prisoners aren't harassing victims, intimidating witnesses, continuing to commit crimes etc.

                Even letters or phone calls to your legal representative can be monitored should the prison have 'reasonable cause' to believe they are being used for illegal activity.

                1. Charles 9

                  Re: Difference?

                  "Even letters or phone calls to your legal representative can be monitored should the prison have 'reasonable cause' to believe they are being used for illegal activity."

                  Attorney-Client Privilege in the US also has exceptions. One of them is what you describe and what we call the "Crime/Fraud Exception". Basically, if the client tries to commit a crime or fraud through the lawyer or the lawyer provides information of a criminal nature (such as advice on destroying evidence), and the prosecution has reasonable suspicion of this happening, the privilege can be waived for the purposes of surveillance and testimony.

            3. heyrick Silver badge

              Re: Difference?

              "If a right can be taken away from you by something as capricious as a court, then it was never really yours to begin with."

              A bunch of my rights were taken away by a referendum I wasn't even eligible to participate in.

              Rights themselves aren't worth the paper they're written on if they're never seen as anything more than an indication of good intentions. The only thing that matters is whether or not somebody will step forward to defend those rights.

              1. DuncanLarge

                Re: Difference?

                > A bunch of my rights were taken away by a referendum I wasn't even eligible to participate in.

                I think I know what you are referring to, but from the other side:

                Funny that, when I was 13 a bunch of my rights were also taken away from me in 1993 when we signed an agreement that we were never going to get a referendum on, I also had no chance even if we did because I was 13 and not old enough to vote for my future.

                Luckily however I finally got my chance to fix that injustice a few years ago...

  3. spold Silver badge

    Yes but....

    One would assume that this is not their only customer base....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In South Carolina, prison officers have found and taken one phone for every three inmates, the highest rate in the country. In Oklahoma, it's one phone for every six prisoners, the nation's second-highest rate. Other states in the top 10 are Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida and Arkansas and Louisiana; the only one outside the region was California. NBC based its rankings on data provided by the state corrections departments.

    Cellphones are prized because they allow inmates to avoid privatized jailhouse phone and visitation services that charge up to $15 for a two-minute call home to friends and family. "Inmates call their mothers like most of us do on holidays," said Dr. John Shaffer, former executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Corrections Department.

    But for some, the phones serve a darker purpose. "Most of these guys are just chitchatting with their girlfriends, but some of these guys are stone-hardened criminals running criminal enterprises," said Kevin Tamez of the MPM group, a litigation consulting firm that specializes in prison security.

    It should be noted, prison officers are also a major player in cell phone smuggling. A perverse result of taking the phones is creating more demand.

    San Quentin Guard, 2 Others Accused in Death Row Contraband Cellphone Scheme . $900 apiece.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Okay - so would it be a fair compromise to have free phones (instead of this $7.50 a minute bullshit) in exchange for AI monitoring?

      There is no security reason that prison phones should be so expensive.

      Phone smuggling in prisons is mostly done by screws. A few prisoners may jam them in bodily orifices on the way in, but the volume of phones is such that they can only have been brought in by people with regular access.

      1. Charles 9

        I was originally going to suggest signal jamming until I learned they can't get permission to do so without an Act of Congress, due to airwaves being a federally-regulated medium.

        Yeah, good luck with that.

        1. Insert sadsack pun here

          Jamming would be technically very difficult even if the facility were in the middle of nowhere - it would be hugely disruptive if the facility were located anywhere near a town.

          1. Charles 9

            Maybe not jamming per se, but if the prison itself hosted a cell mast and became the focal point of all cell calls in and just around the prison, it might be easier to control things within the prison.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    "Gebru said she wanted to remain independent, and has chosen to stay away from big name investors"

    So she went with...

    "MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Kapor Center, Open Society Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, according to the Washington Post."

    ...most of whom even I have heard of, so they must be "big name investors", no?

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      I suspect she refers to 'big name investors in the AI space'. Are any of those foundations actively involved in investing in companies active in AI, or do they actually get involved in the social sciences more? Either way, I hope she can do her research appropriately without corporate interference from her employers/funders.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      They are funders and donors, not investors. Investors buy stock/shares. Charitable bodies and trusts give grants etc.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        AH, thanks, well spotted. That does shine a very different light on it. Thanks :-)

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Will AI be able to decode "Feed the cat from the 3rd tin from the left" and "Remind Uncle Joe his friends expect him to join them at the supermarket on Friday"?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      RE: Will AI be able to decode...

      Really you need an answer from amanfromMars 1 but here goes:

      I will need a database of tins ordered by the date they left the Labour Party with descriptions of the cats they contained.

      OK, on Friday I will remind Mr Joe to glue his friends together at the supermarket.

      (Couldn't find a way to work in: "The only person getting their work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe".)

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Big Brother

    So long as

    it does'nt listen into prisoner-lawyer conversations..........

    The US justice system is the best justice system money can buy, where a man can be found guilty because the cost of being found innocent will bankrupt him....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Treat people like dirt...

    ...and they become dirt (or remain so).

    I guess there was no money in AI driven education software to teach these people some useful skills for when they get out?

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: Treat people like dirt...

      The majority of these inmates are low to very low IQ, have poor impulse control and no sense of deferred gratification, and come from cultures that venerate physical strength and the ability to commit violence in men. What 'useful skills' do you think we should teach them that will make any difference whatsoever to how they behave when they are released?

  9. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Just say

    Just say "evaluate one divided by zero" before starting a conversation.

    1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge

      Re: Just say

      Or, name check little Bobby Tables to start.

  10. AndrueC Silver badge

    I'm surprised they've waited this long. And don't call it AI. It's just statistical evaluation of waveforms. Surprisingly accurate and more than enough to scan for trigger words that result in notifying a human for evaluation. Frankly if prisons aren't doing this already I'd call it dereliction of duty.

  11. Sam I am

    Pure AI?

    There have been other real time "AI driven" speech to text systems which actually send error generating voice recordings to call centres where plain ol' humans listen and transcribe the audio. I wouldn't be surprised if that is the case here.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on....

    One of the transcription companies that many of the US Correctional Facilities use already does that. That company then passes on the transcript to minimum wagers to authenticate it before sending it back.

    Recording quality was atrocious though and I avoided them.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here
      Big Brother

      Re: Hang on....

      They paid minimum wage workers to do it? Seems like a missed opportunity to have the QC done by prison labour and create a closed loop AI panopticon...

  13. charlieboywoof


    lung or liver?

  14. lukewarmdog

    A prisoner named Sue

    Surely if and when a prison gets sued it just hires a lawyer. If it's worried about being sued it could do worse than send a questionnaire round to get an idea of prisoners issues. The idea off AI listening to prisoners calls back to their parents seems a waste as well as an infringement.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: A prisoner named Sue

      The problem is bad press. Prison brutality tends to be a hot-button issue and also raises Eighth Amendment concerns.

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