One attorney said she’d never witnessed anything like it in her 26 years of practice.

Another said it was extraordinary – and painful – to watch.

Both were referring to a court hearing Wednesday in which a federal judge excoriated federal prosecutors for their handling of a drug smuggling case at the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center.


Fallout from the disclosure that the pretrial detention center in Leavenworth had been recording attorney-client meetings and phone calls has now spread beyond Kansas.

The Federal Public Defender’s office in Kansas City, Missouri, recently sought to have one of its clients released from detention as a result of the apparent breach of attorney-client privilege.

Michael Coghlan / Creative Commons-Flickr

New revelations emerged at a court hearing today that the private prison contractor operating a pretrial detention center in Leavenworth recorded phone conversations between attorneys and their clients and turned them over to federal prosecutors.  

The disclosures came atop revelations at a hearing last Tuesday that the contractor, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), had made video recordings of meetings at the Leavenworth Detention Center between lawyers and their clients and turned those over to prosecutors.

RedBull Trinker / Flickr — CC

An investigation into the distribution of contraband at the Leavenworth Detention Center has morphed into an explosive case involving possible violations of attorney-client privilege on a massive scale.

Evidence at a hearing Tuesday revealed that the private contractor operating the facility, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), made video recordings of confidential conversations between inmates and their attorneys and passed some of it on to government prosecutors in response to a grand jury subpoena.

For children with a parent in prison, maintaining a connection can be difficult.  Steve Kraske talks with the founder of a service organization dedicated to these kids and the artist who will paint portraits of 100 prominent Kansas Citians to be auctioned off to benefit that effort.


Steve Kraske / KCUR 89.3

On Monday, July 28, 2003, Joe Amrine was released from prison, after serving 17 years on death row for a murder he did not commit.

Four days later, shell-shocked from his first few days of freedom and swarms of media attention, Amrine appeared on KCUR’s Up To Date with Steve Kraske, wearing sunglasses.

“I didn’t want people to see the fear in my eyes,” Amrine says.

Amrine returned to Up To Date this week to give a glimpse of what life looks like for him after 13 years of freedom.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A correctional officer stands accused of smuggling tobacco, drugs and other contraband into the Leavenworth Detention Center, U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom announced Monday.

“Inmates could have their choice of vices,” Grissom said at a news conference. “Everything from methamphetamine to tobacco.”

Anthon Aiono, 28, of Platte City, Missouri, has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, providing methamphetamine to inmates, providing synthetic marijuana to inmates and providing tobacco products to inmates.


Both the podcast Serial and Netflix documentary Making a Murderer have brought unprecedented attention to the work of organizations like the Kansas City-based Midwest Innocence Project.

Founded more than a decade ago at the UMKC Law School, the Project works to exonerate those people its staff believe have been wrongly convicted. 

It’s tough starting a new life after being in prison. Although there are many programs to help, a lot of them focus on male ex-cons but don’t do much for women making the transition. Journey House in Kansas City, Missouri, is giving these women — who have nowhere else to go — a place to belong and a fresh start.


It's a collaboration that few people saw coming: the Koch Brothers, the ACLU and President Obama working together on a common cause. All three are involved in a push to pass sweeping criminal justice reform this year. We speak with one of the package's key negotiators about what they're trying to achieve.


  • Mark Holden is general counsel for Koch Industries.
Jackson County Detention Center

For the children of incarcerated parents, the holidays are stressful enough without Mom or Dad.

That’s why a new program at the Jackson County Detention Center is helping provide Christmas gifts for kids whose mothers are in jail.

“The children of the people incarcerated here, it’s not their fault,” Rev. Gene Purtle, the detention center chaplain, says. “A stigma is often attached to them because of whatever the situation is, and I think it’s awesome that we can show them as jailers and people like myself that are part of the church that we care about them.”

The Los Angeles Times / Creative Commons

There's a federal surveillance file from the early 20th century that refers to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas during World War I as a "University of Radicalism."

"That's not hyperbole," said researcher Christina Heatherton of Trinity College in Connecticut during a conversation on Central Standard

Heatherton was writing a book on the Mexican Revolution.

In the early 20th century, new laws inspired by World War I ensnared revolutionary thinkers all over the country, and sent them all to the same place to do time: Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. It turns out Leavenworth was a hotbed of radical training and thought. At the center of it all was Mexican revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon.


  • Christina Heatherton, professor of American Studies, Trinity College
Photograph © Nick Vedros 2015

The lives of inmates in prisons across Kansas is a world away from the aesthetics of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kansas City photographer Nick Vedros is bringing those worlds together with his Faces of Change photo essay — inspired by a unique self-help program in Kansas prisons. The exhibition is set to open at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art next month.

Former Missouri State Senator Jeff Smith was sent to prison for a year and a day for campaign election violations. He tells Steve Kraske what he learned about the criminal justice system during his incarceration. Smith's book recounting his time in a federal penitentiary is Mr. Smith Goes To Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America's Prison Crisis.

Getting a job can be tough--even impossible-- when you've been in prison. On this edition of Up to Date, we talk with a Lawrence man who started the non-profit Sun Cedar specifically to give these people a fresh start in the workplace.


  • Shine Adams, founder of Sun Cedar 
Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

If President Obama closes the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, the suspected terrorists who are housed there might be transferred to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has spoken out against that idea. Thursday, he brought that message to Leavenworth and heard from the people who would be most directly affected: local residents.

For thousands of people in prison there is the hope of parole. Whether that hope is realized lies in the hands of a select few, and the control parole boards exercise is broad and discretionary.


On April , The Village Square’s Kansas City group hosted a panel discussion on "American Justice: The Impact of Incarceration." An expert panel examined imprisonment as the most effective form of achieving public safety, the racial disparities that exist in our prison system, and the alternatives to solving these issues. Former U.S. Ambassador Alan Katz moderated the conversation. 


A shortage of beds for Missouri inmates means a West Bottoms center for parolees and probationers will go back to being a minimum security prison.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor


A prison space crunch amid a state budget crisis is lending urgency to legislative proposals aimed at steering drug offenders toward community treatment rather than prison time.

The House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, chaired by Rep. John Rubin, is looking at a couple of bills that he said are meant to try a new approach after decades of stiff penalties spurred by the unsuccessful “War on Drugs.”

publik15 /

America’s prisons are dealing with an unprecedented issue: a rapidly increasing population of elderly inmates. It’s estimated that one-third of the entire prison population will be 55 years and older by the year 2030.

Julie Denesha


A new program in Kansas aims to improve conditions in prisons, but it’s not for inmates. The state Department of Corrections is one of many prison and jail systems around the country working to overcome “correctional fatigue” — the mental and physical stress that lead to corrections workers burning out.

From Orange Is The New Black to Shawshank Redemption to Cool Hand Luke, prison guards often have gotten a bad rap as some of the worst bullies featured on television and in the movies.

And that rankles John Bates.

University of Kansas

Ethnomusicologist Daniel Atkinson describes Louisiana State Penitentiary (commonly called "Angola") as a “living, breathing plantation.” The land where the prison stands today was converted from plantation to penitentiary after slavery was abolished. 

Americasroof / Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wanted to take a peek at the case files of mobsters, bootleggers or even murderers?

On Monday's Up to Date, we look into the historical underbelly of Leavenworth Penitentiary as we delve into its records with a local archivist.


Early Teen Years Inspired Innocence Project Chief

Nov 28, 2012
Dan Verbeck / KCUR

There is a new chief executive at the Kansas City-based Midwest Innocence Project. The not-for-profit corporation works to free men and women behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

A 'TurnAround' For Those Leaving Prison

Jul 15, 2012

For many who are leaving prison, the chances that they very well may return are high.

One month after a federal court ordered sweeping changes at a troubled juvenile prison in rural Mississippi, the private company managing the prison is out. A report by the Justice Department describes "systemic, egregious and dangerous practices" at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility.

As those words imply, the official report is scathing.

Federal Judge Carlton Reeves wrote that the youth prison "has allowed a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts and conditions to germinate, the sum of which places the offenders at substantial ongoing risk."

KC Civil Rights Summit

Apr 23, 2012
Auntie P / Flickr

On this Monday's Central Standard we speak with Ayanna Hightower-Mannon and Paul Pierce, who work in Kansas City's Civil Rights Division.

What's plentiful in upstate New York? Cows and prison inmates, to name a few things.

Reformists in the two communities don't make natural allies, but organizer Lauren Melodia is trying to do just that.

"I was living in this prison town, and at the same time, the dairy industry was in a lot of turmoil," Melodia tells The Salt. "We thought this [dairy] might be the perfect ally in trying to build a different economy in upstate New York, and shift some of the economic dependency away from the prison system."