Attorney Myles Breiner says the attorney-client privilege is "sacrosanct" to the country's criminal justice system, but it's repeatedly being violated by officials at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz.
"The inmates are supposed to be able to communicate with their attorneys in an effective, confidential way," Breiner told KITV4. "That's not happening."
About 1,600 Hawaii inmates are housed at Saguaro, and Breiner represents 70 of them.
Breiner alleges the eavesdropping of inmates is the result of lawsuits filed against Corrections Corporation of America, Saguaro's parent company, after a prison riot in July of 2010 left a prison guard injured.
"Roughly two or three dozen who were involved in that lawsuit have been systematically deprived of the opportunity to speak to their attorneys in a confidential manner," said Breiner. "The result is it's having a chilling effect on inmates disclosing information."
Attorneys attempting to reach inmates at Saguaro by telephone are required to first place a request with the Department of Public Safety's Mainland Monitor's Office.
At the pre-arranged call time, the inmate is then brought into a unit manager's office, where he is allowed to converse with his attorney. However, Breiner alleges that more often than not, the unit manager stays in the room.
"Consistently, the unit manager listens to the conversation from the client's end of the conversation and takes notes," said Breiner. "Those inmates are then subsequently removed from their units and interrogated by an assistant warden or other staff regarding the nature of that confidential communication."
In an email to KITV4, a CCA spokesman denied officials at Saguaro are engaged in any wrongdoing.
"CCA is firmly committed to providing inmates access to legal counsel using methods that provide for confidential attorney-client communication," wrote Steven Owen, CCA's Senior Director of Public Affairs. "Our policies are clear, fair and straightforward."