There’s no question about it; digital evidence is going to become a game-changer in the future in criminal court cases. Court rooms have had cameras in them for years now, arrests have been caught on tape for even longer (thanks to the overnight sensation of the TV series COPS), and cameras in prison are a permanent fixture. Perhaps the oldest and most stable technology (the one that actually dates back the longest) is the sleeping giant that finally awakes – the jail telephone.
Sounds odd, but until recently, calls from inmates were (and still are in many cases) monitored by someone listening in for cues or clues. The calls are recorded, stored, and retrieved if the defendant or prosecutor suspects there may be something compelling that needs to be presented. It’s basically a manual process from there. Play, listen, transcribe, backup, repeat, etc. It can be a full blown profession.
Here’s why inmate phone calls are going to make a difference in the future.
1. Inmates don’t hold back.
Whether a call is recorded or not, an inmate is going to reveal WAY too much on the phone. It’s simple – they want to get out and the person on the other end is a door to the outside world and freedom. If an inmate made one 15 minute phone call a day for a year, there are 365 conversations that likely have something material in them that should be used in court.
2. Conversations contain keywords.
Over the course of 365 days in jail, keywords will submerge that will create a theme and could prove important.
3. Conversations and keywords together create a story.
There’s a reason reality television has swept the nation. A sequence of events, or conversations in this case, create a profile of a person’s thoughts and personality and can be a compelling way of getting to know someone without even meeting them. If you listen to 365 fifteen minute conversations (that’s over 90 hours) you’ll have a pretty good picture of who someone is. That’s the equivalent of eight full seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians if you can sit through them all.
4. Cutting edge technology can now manage inmate phone calls.
Up until now, there’s not been an effective, efficient, and affordable way to manage the enormous amount of phone call content that is generated from the thousands of correctional facilities in our country. Earlier this year Vu Digital released S.M.A.R.R.T. (storage, metadata, automated, review, redaction, technology) that uses computer vision to analyze video and audio to create detailed time stamped metadata so that patterns of behavior (whether audio or visual) can be established (i.e. a story is created).
When phone calls are turned into data that’s when the game changes. Now words, phrases, and patterns all of a sudden become searchable and digital evidence is only a keystroke away instead of a labor intensive process away. Now evidence that was never a part of the process unless explicitly requested is evidence that is automatically a part of a case.
Cutting edge technology like S.M.A.R.R.T. would not be cutting edge if it couldn’t deliver results in a fraction of the run-time of the audio. Manual transcription takes at least the length of the recording to transcribe (usually much longer), whereas S.M.A.R.R.T. processes and delivers in as short as one minute for an hour long recording. That translates into: thousands of recordings can be analyzed in minutes rather than weeks.
The circle would not be complete, though, if this new enormous mound of evidence didn’t have a useful user interface. Using distributed processes, predictive analytics, and a scalable infrastructure and databases, millions of pieces of data from thousands of phone calls are organized and accessible via a secure connection from a mobile or web browser. This was strategically designed for prosecutors and law enforcement officers to be able to use where they are – in the courtroom, in the car, or at their desks.