Prisons and jails use artificial intelligence to monitor inmate phone calls

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Artificial intelligence is helping prisons and jails monitor inmate phone calls to learn of criminal activity and potential suicides.

The technology uses speech recognition, semantic analytics and machine learning software to build databases of searchable words, ABC News reports. The technology companies notify law enforcement when the system picks up suspicious language.

One company, LEO Technologies based in Los Angeles, sends investigators to prisons that use its services to add phrases and slang from the prison and surrounding area to its database.

Inmates are warned that their calls are being recorded, but they make incriminating statements on the phone anyway.

In one case, the technology identified a problematic call earlier this month in Suffolk County, New York. The inmate threatened to kill the judge and prosecutor in his case after his release from prison.

“If I got to stay longer than November … I’m killing them all when I get out … and I mean it!” the inmate said on the call, according to a partial transcript provided to ABC News by LEO Technologies officials.

In another case in Jefferson County, Alabama, authorities discovered that an inmate was running a prostitution ring from prison after he complained that a sex trafficking victim was too far away to control. Police went to the Alabama hotel where the victim was being sent and arrested her handler.

LEO Technologies says the costs of its technology generally runs from $500,000 to $600,000 per year for a prison with about 1,000 inmates.

Two other companies that provide phone services to prisons and jails, GTL and Securus, are also developing AI technology to monitor phone calls.

Some have criticized use of the service in jails because many inmates whose calls are being monitored haven’t been convicted of a crime. One critic is Bianca Tylek, executive director of Worth Rises, an inmate advocacy group.

“The majority of people in jail are pretrial and are subjected to additional levels of surveillance because they can’t afford bail,” Tylek told ABC News. “Rich people can get bail and not be subject to this added level of surveillance.”

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