Civil Rights

Perspective: Maintaining Confidential Communication with Incarcerated Clients

August 31, 2023
Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm Summer 2023 Civil Rights Team

Table Of Contents


The Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm is one of the leading civil rights firms representing incarcerated victims of sexual abuse and medical malpractice across the nation. At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we emphasize the importance of maintaining strong client relationships during the process of the lawsuit, and ensuring that our clients understand every step of the process.

This relationship is even more important for our incarcerated clients, who are often not afforded the same ability to freely communicate with attorneys—or the outside world in general.

Even though confidential attorney-client communication is constitutionally protected by the Sixth Amendment, those who are incarcerated are forced to navigate through additional barriers in order to gain access to confidential communication in the first place.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, our civil rights team led by Attorney Jaehyun Oh takes additional steps not only to ensure that our clients have access to confidential communication but also feel comfortable while speaking to us—as we are often discussing extremely sensitive topics that require care and sensitivity.

Seeking Legal Representation While Incarcerated

The First Amendment gives prisoners the right to maintain contact with those outside of prison. However, phone calls, Corrlinks messages (equivalent to an email for federal inmates), as well as mail is subject to monitoring by Bureau of Prisons staff.

However, there are some exceptions to monitored communication, namely attorney-client privilege. Privileged attorney-client communication receives heightened protection because censorship of legal communication would deprive an individual of meaningful access to the courts and attorneys.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we are often communicating with our clients regarding extremely sensitive matters such as allegations of sexual abuse committed by prison staff.

Thus, Attorney Jaehyun Oh and the rest of the Civil Rights team at the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm upholds strict standards when communicating with anyone who is incarcerated.

1. Speaking from a confidential line

The first step that our team always takes when communicating with incarcerated clients and prospective clients is to ask if our clients are calling from a confidential line. Per our internal protocol, we will not speak about sensitive information over a monitored call or email due to the fact that doing so could put our clients at risk.

Matthew (Matt) Jackson, a Civil Rights paralegal at the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm stated, “We have to accept the fact that the initial communication is going to be monitored, and that’s why we immediately advise them to be vague and not to give any specifics.” Naomi Smith, another paralegal on the Civil Rights team, clarified that it is important to be vague especially when their complaint involves staff that are currently employed at the facility they are incarcerated at. All calls are subject to monitoring and can be used against the clients if inconsistent with their later recollection.

2. Understanding each facility’s protocol

Each BOP facility has different protocol for communicating confidentially with inmates. Typically, we must arrange a call with Counselors at the prison so they would bring the client to a legal call room. We always verify that the clients are in a private location, by themselves, before we begin discussing sensitive topics. In addition, legal mail must be clearly marked as legal mail for attorney eyes only; otherwise it can be read by staff at the prison.

Some facilities also have extra steps to verify whether or not the mail is legal. Naomi recounted one instance where we were sending mail to a client that was clearly marked as “Special Legal Mail. Only open in the presence of inmate,” as well as our Law Firm’s name on the outside. However, because the envelope did not also explicitly state the attorney’s name, correctional staff proceeded to open and attempted to read the mail.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we are thorough in confirming the protocol of each facility to ensure that our client’s sensitive information will never be shared with parties they did not consent to. Despite the fact that it can be very time consuming, Matt takes the responsibility to verify that all of our correspondence with incarcerated individuals is confidential so our clients can be comfortable that they won’t be put at risk for pursuing legal action against the facility. Attorney Jaehyun Oh stated, “Clients often tell me that they can tell the difference between a good and not-so-good lawyer by how clearly they mark the legal mail as legal mail. These seemingly small things can make a big difference to clients and the level of trust they have in you.”

3. In-Person Visitation

“In person visits are very important.” -Matthew Jackson

Unlike most firms, at the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, our Civil Rights Team goes out of their way to facilitate in-person visits with our incarcerated clients. Attorney Jaehyun Oh believes that no method of communication can replace in-person, face-to-face connection with clients. Therefore, even though she represents clients across the country—from California to Florida to Minnesota to Connecticut to New York—, she does her best to take the time to visit the clients in person. Her policy is to make monthly visits to out-of-state prisons. According to Attorney Jaehyun Oh, “These visits are what keeps our clients going sometimes in the worst of circumstances. It’s amazing the life stories they share and the insights, when you get to know them beyond the surface level.”

As our summer fellow Emma stated, “prisoners are one of the few groups you are still allowed to legally discriminate against.” Matt and Naomi reiterated this sentiment by clarifying that incarcerated individuals are treated as a number both by the criminal justice and legal system, which is a very isolating and alienating experience.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, the relationships we maintain with our clients are one of the most important parts of our practice and is differentiates us from other firms. Regardless of whether or not there are barriers to speaking with an individual, all clients deserve the same care and attention to ensure that they feel comfortable during every step of the process. As Attorney Jaehyun Oh said, “For some of these clients, the legal case is all that they can think about. They are cut off from outside contact and possible positive distractions, so the legal case becomes the center of their focus. When that is the case, it is crucial that the lawyer tries to treat the case with that same level of importance—even though, of course, for the lawyer, it is one of many cases.”

Speak with an Experienced NYC Prison Abuse Lawyer

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, our experienced Civil Rights Team understands the complexities and difficulties of pursuing a legal claim while incarcerated.

Our team will always go above and beyond to ensure not only that our communication with incarcerated clients is confidential, but also that our clients feel comfortable throughout the process.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we approach every topic with the upmost care and compassion, and our entire team is dedicated ensuring that our clients receive justice.

Our lead civil rights attorney Jaehyun Oh is currently involved in nation-wide reform efforts to ensure that incarcerated survivors of sexual assault receive just compensation for the trauma they had to endure.

If you or a loved one has experienced sexual assault or medical malpractice while incarcerated, speak with an experienced prison abuse lawyer today.

At the Jacob Fuchsberg Law Firm, we can help you take legal action against the prison staff who were responsible for and complicit in causing your abuse.

Our experienced team of prison sexual assault attorneys can help survivors process their trauma and seek justice, in a way that feels comfortable and validating for an individual survivor.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

We can help when the unimaginable happens.