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View Full Version : Are prison therapy sessions always under surveillance?



Kfior02
05-30-2016, 04:59 AM
I'm hashing out an idea for a story in which a female inmate starts attending private therapy sessions with the prison psychologist. If I understand correctly based on my research, the same patient confidentiality rules that apply outside the prison system generally apply to prisoners as well (all information is kept confidential unless it presents a danger to the prisoner or someone else, the prisoner is plotting escape, etc.).
But are therapy sessions always done under video surveillance, even if the person behind the camera can't hear what's being said? Basically, I'm wondering if something, er, illicit could happen between the prisoner and psychologist without anyone finding out about it?

frimble3
05-30-2016, 05:24 AM
Basically, I'm wondering if something, er, illicit could happen between the prisoner and psychologist without anyone finding out about it?
I don't know how it's done IRL, but that last sentence alone sounds like a good reason for surveillance. If it's a guard at a window in the door, or a camera, something.
Whether they're conducting an illicit romance, smuggling drugs, or the prisoner decides to attack the doctor, I don't think the prison would leave people alone and unsupervised, in a private room, for long.

blacbird
05-30-2016, 07:34 AM
I once had an attorney tell me that under no circumstances would she allow an incarcerated client to discuss ANYTHING pertinent to the legal case with ANY prison official, including mental health care people. Aside from attorney visits, no visit or conversation is privileged and everything is likely to be monitored. Remember, the mental health care people in such institutions aren't there, as their first obligation, to treat the patient. They are there, as their first obligation, to help maintain order in the institution. If that latter obligation happens to coincide with helping the inmate, fine. But it isn't their primary duty.

caw

jclarkdawe
05-30-2016, 07:36 AM
You might want to read about Joyce Mitchell.

During World War II, Allie POWs built a glider in a German POW camp.

Inmates know exactly where the cameras are and where they stop.

As an attorney, I've met with maximum security inmates in private rooms without surveillance. It's not the norm, and it's not especially recommended, but it can happen. Prisons are all about rules and normal procedures, and then the exceptions.

Jim Clark-Dawe

blacbird
05-30-2016, 07:50 AM
Inmates know exactly where the cameras are and where they stop.

As an attorney, I've met with maximum security inmates in private rooms without surveillance.

The operative phrase is bolded. Re-read my preceding post. Attorneys are the single major exception to the rules of inmate visitation, and attorney visits are detested at a maximum level by staff at correctional facilities, for this and other reasons.

caw

jclarkdawe
05-30-2016, 04:44 PM
Blacbird and I were posting at the same time. I'm well aware that attorneys can be given considerable latitude by prison authorities. I can't comment on exactly how far therapists can break the rules, however. And therapists can be meeting inmates for several reasons, including determining competency and sanity.

Prisons are funny about rules. One time when my son was about twelve, I was taking him somewhere, but had to stop off at the State Prison to get a signature from a client. There's a waiting room you sit in before going into the visiting room. I told my son he could wait there, and I'd only be a couple of minutes. But the guard, who I knew, said why not bring him into the visiting room with me and that the inmate wasn't a problem (in this type of circumstance, I would agree).

So my son and I are sitting in the attorney area, which is a bit more closed off than the rest of the visiting area, and my son met with my client. We were there about a half an hour, and my son and the inmate had a nice chat. We leave and when we get back into the car, my son says my client seems like a nice guy and why is he in prison. I sort of laugh and say, "Murder." My son was shocked and asked for details.

The guy had been a master-at-arms for a major outlaw biker gang, and killed two members of a rival gang for no other reason than they were with another gang. Although there were definite limits on how far any of us trusted this inmate, in this circumstance it was okay. My client was completely appropriate.

On the other hand, I had an inmate I needed to meet with who was a witness in an assault case. Those meetings were handcuffed, shackled, bolted to the floor and two guards in the room. We were all in agreement about the security arrangements. The guards in the room understood that our conversation was protected by a court order and they couldn't repeat anything they heard. Fortunately the assault had occurred in a different facility.

I don't know exactly how much surveillance therapy sessions are monitored. My guess is that to some extent the answer varies. Prisons involve a variety of different security levels. By and large privacy is very much the exception in prison, but it can happen.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Siri Kirpal
05-30-2016, 09:33 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

As an aside that might help someone, murderers do seem more "normal" than the rest of most prison populations. I used to teach kundalini yoga in a max security facility. A guard was joking with me about how unnormal the prisoners were. I grinned and said, "Except the murderers." He nodded very seriously and said, "Ain't it the truth. You meet a guy and wonder 'what's he in for' and it's always something violent."

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

ironmikezero
05-30-2016, 09:56 PM
While some may find this to be a legally vague area, bear in mind that it's not unusual for "therapy sessions" within detention facilities to be monitored for personnel safety (all parties). Monitored does not necessarily mean recorded, but it might. The level of monitoring can and will vary per circumstances involved (think common sense, as applied in a reasonable-man test). Whether or not any forthcoming admissions/information may rise to the level of admissible evidence will likely be a contested issue to be decided by the court.

As previously mentioned, only the attorney-client privilege is assured of privacy--but the personal safety of the parties is still a consideration. Consequently, most detention facilities have a written policy in place for personnel to follow to assure adherence to the required privacy of the attorney-client privilege and keep the parties safe from harm.

As a writer, that gives you the rather broad discretion to craft your scene as you deem the story needs. Best of Luck!

Kfior02
05-31-2016, 04:50 AM
Wow, thanks to everyone for the replies!
I guess there isn't a clear yes or no answer to the question. It seems the simplest answer is that prison therapy sessions are almost always monitored in some way. But if there are exceptions to the rule, even rare ones, that's something to consider, although I hate stories where the writer has created circumstances that are just a little too convenient for their characters.
I wonder if bribery of the prison guard assigned to monitor the session would be more believable? Hmm...

blacbird
05-31-2016, 04:57 AM
Note that "monitoring" can be done in a couple of ways. It can be purely visual, or it can include recording. Attorney visits, or conversations, are NOT supposed to be recorded; they are private. But they can be watched, and generally are, for security reasons (correctional facilities don't want to give ANYBODY a way to pass contraband to an inmate*). I think you can assume that, outside of the attorney privacy situation, everything else is recorded or listened to.

caw

*This, despite the well-established fact that the major source of contraband in correctional facilities is via correctional officers. We here in Alaska just had an officer arrested for providing drugs to inmates.

jclarkdawe
05-31-2016, 05:23 PM
Blacbird is right that there are no blind spots in a prison. Except that there are. There are quite a few good books on Allie POW camps during World War II written by the prisoners. Although the reason they were locked up is a lot different than the reasons why criminals are locked up, once you're locked up, the game of hiding things from the guards is exactly the same. The POWs, although technology has changed, can give you a good idea on what needs to happen for inmates to mess with the guards.

You'll also begin to figure out how and why guards can pass things they shouldn't. There are some good studies out there on this issue, although the answer is hard to come up with.

More likely than bribing the guards would be bribing her fellow inmates. I don't know what the inmate is doing with the therapist, but it's rare in this type of situation that the inmate doesn't have something she can trade for help from her fellow inmates.

Jim Clark-Dawe

blacbird
05-31-2016, 10:35 PM
Blacbird is right that there are no blind spots in a prison.

Not quite what I said. What I meant is that contact with anyone from outside the prison, be it a social visitation or an attorney meeting, will be monitored to some extent. Beyond that, there are plenty of "blind spots" in just about every correctional facility. And inmates have intimate knowledge of where these are.

caw

T Robinson
05-31-2016, 11:56 PM
Note that "monitoring" can be done in a couple of ways. It can be purely visual, or it can include recording. Attorney visits, or conversations, are NOT supposed to be recorded; they are private. But they can be watched, and generally are, for security reasons (correctional facilities don't want to give ANYBODY a way to pass contraband to an inmate*). I think you can assume that, outside of the attorney privacy situation, everything else is recorded or listened to.

caw

*This, despite the well-established fact that the major source of contraband in correctional facilities is via correctional officers. We here in Alaska just had an officer arrested for providing drugs to inmates.

As an aside, see bolded in Blacbird's post. Contraband in prison does not mean what the regular person might think. Contraband is anything not allowed by prison rules.

T Robinson
06-01-2016, 12:00 AM
Not quite what I said. What I meant is that contact with anyone from outside the prison, be it a social visitation or an attorney meeting, will be monitored to some extent. Beyond that, there are plenty of "blind spots" in just about every correctional facility. And inmates have intimate knowledge of where these are.

caw

Very, very true. Some that aren't blind are blocked by other prisoners when they need to make a transaction.

Kfior02
06-01-2016, 05:18 AM
Very, very true. Some that aren't blind are blocked by other prisoners when they need to make a transaction.

Interesting. This I hadn't thought of. I don't see how I could work that angle into this particular part of the story because the inmate and the therapist are supposed to be in a private session. Oh, and the illicit behavior taking place here is actually sex (or some sort of sexual act...TBD) rather than someone providing contraband.
However, the 'fellow inmate' thing could definitely prove useful for other scenes.

jclarkdawe
06-01-2016, 06:45 AM
Understand that prisons frequently remodel and change their configuration. For a while, a State Prison for men had a section of open cubicles surrounded by glass, with solid partitions up to about waist height. You couldn't hear well, but you could see into them, and so they provided both verbal privacy with reasonable security. They were used for both classes (individual and group) and counseling.

Now I heard this from a couple of inmates, as it connected to something else I was interested in. I do know the female instructor was let go on short notice. But rumor had it that the woman instructor was giving hand jobs as the inmate student and the instructor sat side-by-side going over math. The action was hidden by the fact that the partitions were not clear all the way down to the floor.

A lot of the sex in prison isn't very fancy and is designed for quick contact.

Jim Clark-Dawe

blacbird
06-01-2016, 07:18 AM
As an aside, see bolded in Blacbird's post. Contraband in prison does not mean what the regular person might think. Contraband is anything not allowed by prison rules.

Correct. And that could include something as seemingly innocuous as a paper clip or a safety pin. Visitors basically aren't allowed to pass anything to an inmate, with severe penalties involved.

caw

Twick
06-01-2016, 11:33 PM
Remember the old saying, "Love (or at least Lust) laughs at locksmiths."