Information about Cellular Phones in Prison
Due to their compact size, cell phones are easily hidden and can be smuggled into prisons, causing great security risks.
Many incidents of illegal cell phone smuggling have been recorded, including a case where an inmate’s mother sent a cell phone through a prison guard’s post office box who smuggled it in for a prize of $400. The warden was made aware of the situation when the inmate’s mother made a complaint about the quality of cell phone reception in the prison.
According to John Moriarty, inspector general for the Texas Criminal Justice Department, over 600 cases of cell phone smuggling have been reported in the last three years.
In a single year, 109 cell phones were confiscated from a correctional facility in Florida, the country’s third-largest prison. In fact, over 4,130 cell phones have been confiscated in this year alone, more than in the last three years combined, according to the LA Times (October, 2009).
Florida inmates are thought to have smuggled crack cocaine and marijuana into one of the state’s highest security facilities by using cell phones and prison guards working on the roads. Various raids have uncovered cell phones not only in the prison but at work camps and transport vehicles that run to and from work sites. One cell phone was even hidden inside a typewriter in order to pass through X-ray security screenings.
After Texas state senator, John Whitmire, received an unexpected call from an inmate on death row, the state governor conducted a search of over 156,000 inmates in all 112 state prisons. 128 cell phones, plus chargers, batteries and SIM cards were found during the search, and by 2008, searches were turning up more than 1,000 phones and accessories.
Similar searches in 2008 found 2,809 cell phones in California prisons, 1,861 in Mississippi and 1,623 in federal prisons.
As drug smuggling has proven to be correlated with the use of cell phones among inmates, Texas prisons have permitted landlines to be installed in the correctional institutions and have made the possession of cell phones illegal. Cell phone jammers could, in theory, stop the problem, but as cell phone jammers can interfere with the rights of commercial enterprises and their spectrums, they are illegal and can incur hefty fines.
This means that for the moment, frequent cell searches are the only solution, but it requires a lot of time, organization and man-power. This is especially true if you consider how small a SIM card is and how easy it is to hide.
An interesting case occurred recently in Brazil, where police foiled a plan to smuggle cell phones into a prison via remote-control helicopter. A mere meter long, the helicopter had a small basket attached containing nine cell phones in a disposable diaper. The arrested suspects claimed they were given $5,000 for the phones and helicopter and were promised an additional $5,000 upon successful delivery of the phones inside the prison walls. Yet another interesting case in Sao Paolo involved carrier pigeons trained to deliver parts of a cell phone, but the plan was uncovered by prison guards.
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