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Monday, March 7, 2011

Sheriff Wants to Monitor More Prisoner Calls

Posted By on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 at 6:39 PM

A previous version of this story reported the sheriff was cutting back on call monitoring. A spokeswoman has said this is not the case.

click to enlarge 'Don't forget your silencer, Vito.'
  • 'Don't forget your silencer, Vito.'
Thanks to budget constraints, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department is unable to monitor as many prisoner phone calls as it would like. Eavesdropping so far has helped prosecutors "mount credible criminal cases," according to a report submitted to the Board of Supervisors.

The Sheriff doesn't have sufficient staff to provide a level of auditing which would be "of most help to criminal prosecutions," according to a new report from Sheriff Michael Hennessey.

Without such staff, the sheriff can now only spot check those conversations, the report said.

"We have not changed anything about how we monitor phone calls. We have not refused a single request. It's business as usual," said Eileen Hirst, chief of staff for Sheriff Michael Hennessey.

In the future, however, the Sheriff would like to hire more staff to listen in on even more prisoner calls.

Here's a section from the Sheriff's annual Efficiency Plan, describing the need for more phone call monitoring.

Acquire adequate staffing to monitor prisoner telephone conversations in developing intelligence regarding potential criminal behavior.

Under certain circumstances the Sheriff can record conversations conducted
by prisoners using the prisoner telephone system. In the past, Sheriff's staff
has monitored certain conversations at the request of the San Francisco
Police Department. This labor-intensive program has developed credible
information leading to successful criminal prosecutions. However, the
Sheriff does not currently have sufficient dedicated staff to provide the level
of monitoring which would be of most help in these prosecutions. Without
such staff, the Department can only spot check conversations.
An earlier version of this story interpreted the sentence: "the Sheriff does not currently have sufficient dedicated staff to provide the level of monitoring which would be of most help in these prosecutions," to mean the department was cutting back on calls. However, Hirst explained that the sentence meant that the department wishes it could do more call monitoring in the future.

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