APNewsBreak: Ohio prisons agency to use private-sector intelligence analysts to monitor phones

The Ohio prisons agency will use five private-sector intelligence analysts in a first-ever move to help monitor inmate phone calls as part of its crime prevention efforts, records show.

The analysts will be made available by Virginia-based Global Tel-Link as part of its contract to run the prison system's inmate phone program, according to a copy of a contract amendment with the company obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.

The analysts will work for the prison agency's chief inspector to locate what the contract calls "actionable intelligence."

The contract also calls on GTL to provide forensic machines to obtain data from contraband cellphones confiscated by prison guards.

The prison system has long monitored inmate phone calls, as happens in many states. The analysts in Ohio are part of efforts "to ensure the safety and security of DRC facilities, staff, inmates, and the public," prisons spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said in a statement.

"Such use will reduce the occurrence of criminal activities or any other activities that could be considered a threat to the orderly operation of the DRC," she said.

The state makes arrangements for inmates to have confidential conversations with lawyers that aren't monitored, Smith said.

The contract is part of negotiations with GTL that reduced the cost of inmate phone calls to 5 cents a minute, slashing the previous price, which could top $17 for a 15-minute call.

GTL is also replacing the prison system's 2,000 phones and is adding 500, under the new contract.

GTL calls itself "the leading provider of integrated correctional technology solutions" in the country, including services with 32 state corrections departments.

On March 24, it announced the creation of an intelligence app that "combats fraud and other criminal activity" by detecting what kind of phone line an inmate is placing a call to. Those could include a traditional land line, an Internet phone, a cellphone or a disposable phone.

That could come in handy for facilities that limit types of phones inmates are allowed to call. It's unclear if GTL's Ohio contract is using that app. Smith, the corrections agency spokeswoman, wouldn't provide details of the intelligence gathering.

A message was left with GTL.