A FOIA lawsuit seeking records concerning the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ digitization and surveillance of mail
On August 4, 2021, the Knight Institute filed a FOIA lawsuit seeking records from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) relating to the BOP’s mail digitization pilot program, which scans and stores all non-privileged mail sent into its correctional facilities, while destroying the original copies.
Mail digitization efforts, like the BOP’s pilot program, raise serious questions about the rights of incarcerated people and their loved ones. The telecommunications contractor administering the program for the BOP, Smart Communications, not only stores searchable copies of letters sent to incarcerated people, it also collects information from letter-writers who attempt to track the status of their correspondence, and retains that data for investigators as well. Smart Communications retains this data for years, and possibly indefinitely.
On June 25, 2021, the Knight Institute submitted a FOIA request for records related the BOP’s mail digitization efforts. The Institute filed this lawsuit to expedite and enforce the request.
Status: The BOP produced responsive records under the court-ordered production schedule and after review, conferral, and subsequent productions, the parties agreed that no outstanding questions remained. The court ordered the case settled on July 25, 2022.
Case Information: Knight First Amendment Inst. at Columbia Univ. v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, No. 1:21-cv-6579 (S.D.N.Y.).