Tag Archives: cell phone

FCC Filing Highlights The Value Of Inbound Calls To Prisoners

meshDETECT inbound calls to prisonThe first round of comments on the FCC’s Second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the reduction of the cost of all inmate calls are in. Here is one of the more interesting insights we have gleaned from those submissions:

The Prison Policy Initiative’s submission on advanced inmate communications services in prison discusses the very real need that these new services (such as the meshDETECT Secure Prison Cell Phone Solution) address:

These Services Address a Real Need

“These services are typically bundled with other communications services, and we rarely see them given much attention in industry bids for contracts. Surprisingly, we didn’t find many examples of the industry even bothering to explain the value that these services provide, so we will do so here:

Traditionally, there are only a few ways that incarcerated people and loved ones on the outside can communicate:

• By letter, sent by either party through the U.S. mail, with all of the delays that that entails.

• By visit in person, sometimes at great distance and sometimes arranged in advance, and always initiated by the non-incarcerated person.

• By telephone, always initiated by the incarcerated person.

These three avenues leave some serious gaps, namely that there is no way to send a timely message to an incarcerated person, such as:

• Your father just passed away.

• I was at home for your regular weekly call, but the doorbell rang right before you called and I missed your phone call. Can you call again tonight or tomorrow morning?

• I found a buyer for the car. Do you know where the deed is?

• I fell and broke my leg. I’m going to be ok, but I can’t make it to our regular visit tomorrow.

In these circumstances, there is no good way for family members to proceed. They can send a letter or wait for a phone call but all of these delays create unnecessary stress for everyone involved. In practice, there is one other possibility that often creates its own problems: the person on the outside calls the correctional facility, speaks to a counselor or the warden, and asks that a message be relayed for the incarcerated person to call. (And then, the person has to sit by the phone and hope that the message was relayed.)

Many of these services simply give both incarcerated and non-incarcerated people more methods of timely communication which can be initiated by either party. In fact, as we explain in our video visitation report, these services tend to be most popular where they give people not just a new technology with which to communicate, but also a more flexible approach to communication.”

With meshDETECT, families and loved ones can call into the detainee’s secure prison cell phone, if allowed by the facility. We agree that this is an important feature that will significantly improve the timeliness and quality of detainee/family communications.

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SIM And microSD Cards In Contraband Cell Phones

A good article below about the forensic value of a confiscated contraband prison cell phone. One clarification, however: A SIM card is not the same as a microSD card – referred to in the article as a data card. The microSD card used in most smart phones is similar to a USB storage device for your PC in that it is used to store user determined data such as documents, pictures, media, etc.

A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card is a portable memory chip used mostly in cell phones that operate on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network. These cards contain up to 128KB of available memory for storing the personal information of the account holder, including his or her phone number, address book, text messages, and other phone related data.

SIM cards store network-specific information used to authenticate and identify subscribers on the network. The most important of these are the ICCID, IMSI, Authentication Key (Ki), Local Area Identity (LAI) and Operator-Specific Emergency Number. The SIM also stores other carrier-specific data such as the SMSC (Short Message Service Center) number, Service Provider Name (SPN), Service Dialing Numbers (SDN), Advice-Of-Charge parameters and Value Added Service (VAS) applications. SIM cards do not store media.

SIM cards are only present in the GSM phones of carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA technology that does not require a SIM card.

Here’s a scenario that involves a triumph in contraband control. Suppose that through vigilance, shared observations and patience, you have uncovered the most insidious of contraband. You have found a smart phone inside the walls.

This is very good news, as it takes out of circulation a dangerous recorder and communicator. Firm in the knowledge that “information is knowledge,” you and your colleagues have disarmed a potential danger and enhanced safety in the facility.

Celebration seems warranted. However, there is more to do. With the evidence secured and key staff informed, the investigation begins. Some of the follow-up questions are:

• Which prisoner last had the phone?
• Did anyone else have it?
• How does the prisoner maintain a charge on the smart phone?
• Did the offender who had the smart phone work in concert with anyone else? In other words, is this a solo effort or part of a concerted effort through a security threat group?
• How did this smart phone come inside?
• Are there patterns with this incident that may aid in future searches?

With so much information to be gathered, it is easy to overlook one crucial question. Is there a data card with the smart phone?

All that one needs do is open up the phone and remove the mini card, SIM card, SD or whatever one would call it. The name is less important than its utility. The point is that it is a very small and potentially dangerous. And this part of the phone can be removed easily.

Why is this so important? Think of the data card as a removable brain in a mini computer. And this brain can be implanted in many other surprisingly easy to acquire smart phones. How can one describe the amazing storage capacity in something so small? Having all the information in the world on something the size of small coin might not be quite accurate. Still, micro storage technology is such that hundreds of pictures, contacts, texts and other data can be stored on a mini card that is smaller than a penny.

Through the eyes of corrections, let us view the nefarious utilities of data cards. The tiny titan of information storage can hold:

• Incriminating photographs of staff
• A store of all text messages sent and received
• Images that propagate gang activity
• Comprehensive directories of partners in crime
• Images of weak points in our defenses
• Maps
• Lists for store and gambling
• Potential for internet access (granted, this is only under certain circumstances)
• A working social media function

It may be that the information on an easy to hide storage chip is more valuable than the phone itself. This is not to diminish the value of an illegal smart phone in the hands of a prisoner. It just points back to the notion that information is power.

Of course, this does not mean that every micro card that one comes across will contain sensitive information. In fact, the laws of numbers dictate that somewhere and at some time a data card will be found in a jail or prison that contains virtually no useful information in terms of investigation or incrimination.

However, as with any contraband search proposition, it behooves us to continue to search for the danger that is possible. Otherwise, we may overlook a valuable clue.

Author: Joe Bouchard

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Texas To Invest in Cell Phone Blocking Technology

This article discusses the TDCJ’s decision to investigate the viability of managed access contraband cell phone jamming. California, Mississippi and Maryland are also testing the technology. The impact of smuggled contraband cell phones in prisons has been significant. As the article states, “A couple of years ago, there were long lines at the pay phones—hours long. By this year, no one was using them, there were so many smuggled cell phones.”

Update (3/15/13): Final testing starts next week at the first of two Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons where equipment has been installed to block calls to and from unauthorized phones.

The equipment, known as a managed access system, also diverts text messages, emails and Internet log-in attempts from contraband phones. It should be in full operation at the Stiles Unit outside Beaumont and the McConnell Unit near Beeville next month. The two prisons together hold some 5,000 inmates and historically have been the worst of the more than 100 Texas prisons when it comes to cellphone smuggling.

The managed access systems that are being installed won’t interfere with 911 calls, but they will only other calls and communication only to and from registered devices. The top managers at the prisons will decide which ones can be registered.

“It behaves as a cellular tower,” said Mike Bell, the prison system’s information technology director. “Based on ID numbers, if you’re on authorized list, it allows the call to go through.”

Update (9/7/12): Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee at a Capitol hearing 0n 9/4/12 that a “managed-access system” is to be installed by the end of the year at the Stiles Unit in Beaumont and the McConnell Unit in Beeville.

Livingston said the new system will not jam cellphone calls in and around prisons, but will instead intercept all outgoing calls. Only those to numbers that have been pre-approved will be allowed to go through, and the rest “will go to a dead end,” he said.

Livingston said the new managed-access technology is being paid for by Century Link, a private firm that operates pay phones inside Texas’ 111 state prisons. Officials earlier said the system’s cost was about $1 million per prison.

“These two prisons have had the most significant ongoing problems with (smuggled) cellphones, and that’s why they were selected,” Livingston said. “There are no plans at this time to go beyond these two units.”

California and Texas may be considered opposites on the political spectrum, but the two states do have the same philosophy when it comes to cell phones in state prisons.

California got the ball rolling when Global Tel Link agreed to pay millions to install technology in state prisons to block web searches, text messages and phone calls by inmates using smuggled phones.

Texas also saw a problem with its inmates smuggling phones into prison and has recently confirmed working with CenturyLink, a private company that operates pay phones inside Texas’ 111 state prisons, to evaluate installing a similar system in Texas.

“The system would be a managed-access system and does not jam cell phones,” said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

“Managed access intercepts the outgoing calls and only allows calls from approved numbers. This is legal,” Clark said, noting that the Federal Communications Commission prohibits jamming.

Inmates’ access to cell phones in prison can have extreme consequences. Some inmates have used cell phones to run criminal enterprises from behind bars and organize assaults on guards and intimidate witnesses, California prison officials said.

“This groundbreaking and momentous technology will enable [the prison system] to crack down on the potentially dangerous communications by inmates,” said Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate.

In 2011, California prison guards confiscated more than 15,000 contraband phones. In the same year, Texas prison officials seized 904 cell phones.

The first prison in California is expected to receive Global Tel*Link’s technology by October 2012, according to Dana Simas, information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

When the system is installed, each prison will get its own cell tower that will allow prison officials to control all incoming and outgoing calls. All other calls will not go through within the confines of the prison.

“After this system goes in, smuggled cell phones will be nothing more than glorified paperweights,” said Simas. “A couple of years ago, there were long lines at the pay phones —hours long. By this year, no one was using them, there were so many smuggled cell phones.”


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Global Tel*Link Tries to Corner The Market On Prison Managed Access Systems

On March 1, 2012 the FCC issued a public notice seeking comments “on concerns and issues related to intentional interruptions of Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS or “wireless service”) by government authorities for the purpose of ensuring public safety.” (GN Docket No. 12-52)

As the notice states, “While the important function that wireless service plays in protecting public safety is undisputed, some commentators, including some law enforcement personnel, have raised concerns that wireless networks can be used in ways that put the public’s safety at risk. Concerns, for example, that wireless service could be used to trigger the detonation of an explosive device or to organize the activities of a violent flash mob have led public authorities in the United States and abroad to consider interrupting wireless service. Last summer, a public agency temporarily interrupted wireless service on parts of a mass transit system based on stated concerns about public safety.”

“Any intentional interruption of wireless service, no matter how brief or localized, raises significant concerns and implicates substantial legal and policy questions. The service interruption last summer drew sharp criticism, and state and local governments have recently grappled with how to address possible future events. We are concerned that there has been insufficient discussion, analysis, and consideration of the questions raised by intentional interruptions of wireless service by government authorities. In this Public Notice, we seek comment on the legal constraints and policy considerations that bear on an intentional interruption of wireless service by government actors for the purpose of ensuring public safety.”

Not surprisingly this request for comments received many responses from public and private organizations both for and against such action and policy. Included amongst the comments submitted were those provided by Global Tel*Link (GTL) and Tecore on the use of managed access technology in prisons to jam contraband cell phone signals.

As we have written previously, GTL and Tecore have partnered to install managed access in the CDCR’s prison facilities across the state of California as part of GTL’s recent contract to provide prison inmate telephone service.

What is interesting about GTL’s comments to the FCC is its recommendation that the FCC require that entities seeking to deploy a wireless interruption system must provide their services through an authorized provider of telecommunications services selected by the correctional facility. That is, that prison payphone companies be the sole provider of such systems to prisons.

GTL’s logic is as follows,”Through judicious application of existing or enhanced standards promulgated by the Office of Engineering and Technology, the Commission can ensure that any system will be installed and operated in the public interest. Permitting entities with no known qualifications to interact with telecommunications service providers or law enforcement agencies, to install and operate sensitive telecommunications infrastructure, borders on the reckless and irresponsible. To this end, the FCC can require that entities seeking to deploy a wireless interruption system must provide their services through an authorized provider of telecommunications services selected by the correctional facility. Such authorizations carry with them financial and technical evaluations, and provide wireless consumers with points of contact for regulatory redress. Coordination with law enforcement and correctional officers – of the sort pursued in the Maryland, Mississippi, and South Carolina tests – should also be required, culminating in written approval from the institution administrator and a contract with the correctional facility.”

Not surprisingly, Tecore has concerns with GTL’s attempt to corner the market on managed access systems deployment within the prison prison industry. In their subsequent comments to FCC they respond to this initiative: “Tecore most strongly disagrees with the portion of GTL’s comments wherein it urges the Commission to use its regulatory authority to “require that entities seeking to deploy a wireless interruption system . . . provide their services through an authorized provider of telecommunications services selected by the correctional facility.”

“Tecore agrees that, given the technological complexities of managed access, “[p]ermitting entities with no known qualifications . . . to install and operate sensitive telecommunications infrastructure” would border on the “reckless and irresponsible.” However, this does not warrant the requirement that corrections officials be precluded from deploying managed access directly, or through any competent contractor, so long as the system can be effectively deployed and managed. Indeed, the upcoming Maryland deployment of the Tecore Managed Access solution would be precluded under GTL’s proposal because the deployment is not being implemented through an inmate telephone service provider. As Tecore has advocated to the Commission in pioneering managed access, the attraction of including an inmate telephone services provider in the equation is that it presents a vehicle for funding the deployment, which is useful for cash-strapped corrections departments. Inmate telephone contractors, nor indeed any other corrections contractor, should not be a required part of any deployment. This is an administrative decision best left to each corrections department.”

With partners like these, who needs enemies?

(Separately in this same submission to the FCC, Tecore also responds in detail to the findings of the recent highly critical CCST report on the CDCR plan to deploy managed access systems.)

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Investigation Into Cell Phones In Prison

A video about an investigation into the contraband cell phone problem at Northern State prison in New Jersey. According to the report, “A former Northern State inmate says they’re easy to get on the inside, but not cheap. $1,500, $1,000, $1,550, it all depends. The cost all depends on whether you want just a regular cell phone or a smart phone which gives the inmate access to the internet, to its maps, directories and search engines, and to email.”

It also reports that despite aggressive efforts to crackdown on cells phones, prison officials seem to be losing the battle as the number of smuggled phones keeps rising. Several former inmates said that more than half of the prisoners where they were locked up had phones.

As in many other state and county jails, efforts to reduce contraband cell phone smuggling have only focused on cell phone supply reduction and deterrence. We believe prison administrators must also focus on the demand for smuggled cell phones. This can be reduced by co-opting the non-criminal use of the phones, calls to keep in touch with family and loved ones, by offering the meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution.

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Prisons Chief Wants Music, Cable TV For Inmates, Why Not Cell Phones?

If prisoners can have access to MP3 players, video games, email, and cable TV, why not cell phones? After all, contraband cell phones are a huge problem. In California alone, over 15,000 smuggled cell phones were confiscated from prisoners in 2011.

Clearly, there is a demand for more communication by prisoners. Why not provide them a secure prison cell phone solution that maintains all the security and forensic capabilities of prison pay phones? Access to convenient and private communications with family and friends via a cell phone will be a compelling reason to behave, lest the privilege be revoked.

If California’s prisons chief had his way, well-behaved inmates would have access to music, video games and cable television.

Corrections Secretary Matt Cate told a group of journalists this week in New York City, where he was speaking on a panel at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, that state prisons have become so punitive there is “very little benefit in obeying the rules.”

“If you take everything away from a person, you also take away their ability to influence their behavior,” he said. “I think, ultimately, I’d like to get to a place where 95 percent of our prisons are places where inmates have everything from MP3 players to Xbox to cable TV, I don’t care, they can have (all the) goodies you can possibly get, great, as long as they follow the rules … and our guards are safe.”

Cate, who has been tasked with implementing a court-ordered, 33,000-inmate reduction in the state’s prison population, said overcrowding has made it particularly difficult to work with inmates.

He said the way to loosen the grip gangs have on the inside is to cut drug use, perhaps through more drug testing. “You have got to get a hold of the drug problem… I think the gangs get a lot of power and money and influence from selling drugs in prison. It’s a huge problem,” Cate said.


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Inmate Cell Phone Service…Not Secrecy, Privacy

There was a brief posting on the social media site MetaFilter recently regarding the impact of the high cost of prison telecommunications services entitled “Don’t Phone Home From America’s Prisons.

Among the effects of the high cost of prison phone calls is the marked increase in contraband cell phone smuggling across the country.

The comments that followed the post primarily discussed individual experiences with prison phone systems. One comment in particular caught our eye:

“Jail landlines are crowded and not always available, or not always available safely to an inmate.

And then there’s the desire for privacy. Not secrecy, privacy. Would you want to talk about your personal medical stuff, or talk about your mom’s operation, or tell your sweetie how much you miss them….or talk about being queer or trans, or talk about racist violence around you or talk about prison rape…right out there when maybe the person who was threatening you could hear? Or the guards could hear so they could pick on you some more? Maybe withhold your meds?”

This is one of the ways in which our secure prison cell phone solution benefits the incarcerated. While there are many meshDETECT features that benefit the prison administration, such as cell phone call recording and monitoring, the ability to conduct a personal conversation in a private manner is an inmate benefit.

Why should we care if there are benefits of the service for the inmate? Because it has been shown that recidivism is reduced through frequent family contact. The ability to conduct a personal conversation with a modicum of privacy facilitates a higher quality interaction with family and friends.

This benefits society as a whole.

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Work Release Prisoners With Contraband Cell Phones

This article discusses the risk of work release prisoners smuggling contraband cell phones into prison when they return to the jail. It is widely known that many work release prisoners purchase cell phones and hide them outside the jail as well. They grab them when they leave in the morning and return them to their hiding spot on the way back to jail in the evening.

The meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution can be provided to work release prisoners for sanctioned use to eliminate this issue. Because all calls are able to be monitored and recorded, they can even be safely brought back into the prison at night. As the article states, “This is not about keeping inmates from talking to their families, it’s about preventing inmates from being able to attempt other crimes like escape.” With meshDETECT, prisoners can talk to their families and prison administrators don’t have to worry about unmonitored calls.

Best of all, with our custom GPS tracking feature, work release prisoners’ locations can be monitored at all times.

Update (4/14): The DOJ just announced that it will require Federal Bureau of Prison halfway houses to boost services for inmates prior to release. The new rules also instruct federal work release facilities to provide cell phone access in order to help inmates seek employment opportunities.

It’s all in a day served for inmates at Augusta’s Richmond County Correctional Institution (RCCI), working outside the prison. But, that means RCCI has its worked cut out to prevent inmates from bringing stuff back inside.

“We go to every length to make sure the inmates, when they go out to work and they come back, they don’t bring anything with them,” says Warden Evan Joseph.

More than 90 percent of RCCI’s 215 inmates work details, and working outside puts inmates in possible contact with members of the public, who could provide items to sneak into prison.

And, there’s one item RCCI works overtime to keep out…

“Cell phones…it’s not just unique here, it’s a statewide issue. Even the Feds have this problem,” says Warden Joseph.

“Anything that causes a problem, I think, would be a problem. Cell phones are…I don’t think they should have them,” says Catherine Perez, of Augusta, when asked about prisons keeping phones out.

“Because, who knows who they are calling on those cell phones, and what kind of plans they are making, and such,” says Coral Blandin, understanding the problem.

Warden Joseph won’t say exactly how many phones are found every year, but in December, 5 were confiscated at RCCI, and that’s with metal detectors and strip searches.

So, how do these phones get in?

“I can’t give you all the specifics, let’s just say certain cavities has been the primary means of getting it in,” Warden Joseph said.

“I wasn’t aware of that, I think, that’s disgusting,” said Donavon Cherry.

“That’s just horrible, that’s disgusting,” added Blandin.

It’s also a felony. Georgia state law says its one to five years for an inmate to have a cell phone and it’s also a felony for someone to provide a cell phone to an inmate.

Also, an RCCI inmate with a phone gets a date with Captain Lance Peebles. The Security Chief gets the call when an inmate back from detail sets off the metal detector.

“Because we know there’s something inside him, and he’s sitting naked, we know he’s got something in him. He has a choice…either work with me and give it to me then, or we send him to medical where it will be removed, or I’ll go get it and I got big hands,” says the Security Chief, holding up his large right hand.

Warden Joseph says this is not about keeping inmates from talking to their families, it’s about preventing inmates from being able to attempt other crimes like escape

“It’s a public safety issue, not only is the public at risk, but staff, other inmates,” said Joseph.

Monday, RCCI inmate Charles Moore got away from a work detail at a city cemetery. Warden Joseph says a cell phone played a role in the escape.

Moore was captured hundreds of miles away.

That’s why prison’s want them out…no ifs, ands, or buts.


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Prison Pay Phone Problems In The County Lock Up

An interesting article about the challenges of newly booked prisoners using the prison pay phones in county jails. As stated in the article, the inablity to make collect calls to cell phones, “strikes people strange that, in this technologically advanced and cellphone-reliant age, there is no easy way to make a collect call to a cellphone, particularly as the number of people without a land line increases. According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control report, 25 percent of U.S. households don’t even have a land line.”

At meshDETECT, we have developed a solution to this problem that provides new detainees a prepaid account and telephone access at the time of intake. Please contact us to find out more about this innovative solution.

Where was Stephen Petrick? That was the question among his friends in mid-November after the 67-year-old retiree suddenly disappeared.

At the time, no one knew that he had been trying to help a pregnant woman kick a nasty heroin habit by locking her inside his Santa Monica home so she couldn’t buy drugs, or that she had tried to flee and things turned ugly fast, ending with the cops arresting Petrick on a charge of false imprisonment.

Not one of Petrick’s friends had an inkling that Petrick was stuck inside the Los Angeles County jail system — for five long nights — unable to contact them or a bondsman because of the phone setup inmates are forced to use.

“You supposedly have the right to bail,” Petrick says, “but it was effectively denied by the way the phone system works. It should be criminal.”

Petrick says he was arrested in Santa Monica, where he was fingerprinted and booked at the city jail. When he asked to make a phone call, officers told him he had to wait until he was transferred to the L.A. County jail later that day.

At the county jail, Petrick says, he told the deputies that he had high blood pressure and diabetes, so he was placed in a medical unit. He describes it as a large room with 20 to 30 inmates, a few narrow, stainless-steel benches and two or three telephones.

Immediately, Petrick says, he walked up to one of the old-fashioned-looking pay phones, a big black box with patches of chrome but absent a coin slot. Petrick lifted the receiver and placed it to his ear, listening to the automated voice tell him he’d be making a collect call and that it may be recorded or monitored.

Petrick reached out to dial a number. He paused.

Like many people, Petrick had come to rely on his cellphone. He wasn’t as good as he used to be about memorizing phone numbers. Excitedly, he recalled one person’s cell number and dialed it.

His elation, however, quickly turned to anxious frustration as the automated voice told Petrick that he could not place a collect call to a cellular phone. He could only call out to a land line. Trouble was, he hadn’t memorized any land-line numbers.

Hell, he hardly even knew anyone with a land line anymore.

“I realized right away that I had a problem,” Petrick says.

Next, Petrick says, he looked around for a phone book or a posted list of bond agencies so he could arrange to pay bail. The bond was $150,000, an amount Petrick says he had no problem paying. But he needed to call someone on the outside to help.

Unfortunately, he says, he could not find a list of phone numbers for bail bondsmen. When he asked a deputy for help, Petrick says, the deputy was resolutely unhelpful, telling him, “That’s your problem. If we gave you the number, that would be showing partiality.”

After spending a few sleepless nights in the large room filled with other inmates, Petrick says, he was moved to a more permanent cell with access to a common room containing phones. Doubting they would be any different, Petrick tried once again to place a call. But the results were the same. No collect calls to cellphones. No phone list of bail bonds agencies.

Petrick says he was not able to arrange bail until after he had his first court appearance — four days after his arrest.

“There was no way in hell for me to call anyone or to get a bondsman’s number,” he says. “The phones in there effectively denied me the right to make bail, and I don’t know if many people know about this.”

Jeff Stanley, owner of Bad Boys Bail Bonds, one of the largest bond companies in California, with offices from San Jose to San Diego, says the phone situation at L.A. County jail is one of the worst in the state.

“The individuals in custody are held hostage to this phone system that they have to use to talk to an attorney or a bondsman — something they have the legal right to do,” Stanley says. “I truly believe that it’s a violation of their civil rights, because everyone has a right to bail, and this is interfering with that right.”

Says Esther Lim, the jails monitor for the American Civil Liberties Union and one of the few people actually allowed inside the notoriously restricted facility, “I didn’t see a listing of bail-bonds companies near any of the phones I’ve looked at. I have seen listings by the phones for your ambassador if you’re not a U.S. national, but nothing for bail bonds. It’s ridiculous.”

Nicole Nishida, spokeswoman for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, confirms there are no phone numbers provided for bail bondsmen near phones to which inmates have access.

“And we have no plans of doing it in the future,” she says.

Nishida calls the problem a “vending issue” that would have to be resolved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. She says it boils down to fairness: making sure the Sheriff’s Department does not display favoritism toward any particular bail bonds businesses.

Officials in other counties, however, say they’re having no such problem and have found easy ways to provide phone numbers to everybody in jail.

An Orange County jail spokeswoman, for example, says that a list of bond companies, with phone numbers, is posted in both the booking area and in the common rooms used by inmates. She says the bond agencies must contact a company that contracts with the county, and they pay to get on the list that goes inside the jail.

In San Diego County, the Sheriff’s Department used to provide inmates with the Yellow Pages but recently replaced the bulky phone book with an alphabetical listing of bail bonds companies provided to the jail by a local association of bail agencies.

“L.A. County does not post a list,” says bondsman Stanley, “and I have no idea why. L.A. County marches to its own beat.”

In addition, it strikes people such as Stanley, Lim and Petrick as strange that, in this technologically advanced and cellphone-reliant age, there is no easy way to make a collect call to a cellphone, particularly as the number of people without a land line increases. According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control report, 25 percent of U.S. households don’t even have a land line.

Stanley’s is one of them.

“Many families like myself don’t have a land line,” he says, “and I think it’s about time they moved into the 21st century.”

Dorothy Cukier of Global Tel Link, a company that specializes in prison phones and operates the system in L.A. County, told the Weekly via email that collect calls in general — whether they originate from a jail or not — are limited to land lines. The company is allowed to jump in when inmates call a cellphone, offering the recipient of the call a chance to sign up for a service, AdvancePay, which lets calls to cellphones go through, by using a credit card. Another option, Cukier says, is for inmates to put money into an inmate debit account, out of which they can pay to call a phone that does not ordinarily accept collect calls.

Petrick says he was never offered an inmate debit account and has no idea whether a Global Tel Link agent jumped in to ask the friend Petrick had called if he’d accept the charge. All Petrick knows is that he couldn’t get through to his friend.

Two months after Petrick finally arranged bail and got out of jail, he settled his criminal case, which prosecutors apparently agreed wasn’t as serious as the initial charges implied. He pled guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment. He received three years of probation and, ironically, credit for time served for his five nights missing in the jail system.

As for the future, Petrick says, “The first thing I’m going to do is carry a bail bondsman’s number with me at all times and memorize it in case there’s some fluke and I get in trouble again. I don’t want to ever get stuck in jail like that again. It was a nightmare.”


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Control Contraband Cell Phones Without Investment

This presentation on controlling contraband cell phones in prison provides an overview of the problem, of the supply-side strategies currently deployed and of meshDETECT’s secure prison cell phone solution.

To learn more, also download our whitepaper, “Reducing the Demand for Contraband Cell Phones in Correctional Facilities.”

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