Tag Archives: cellphone

Allowing Phones in The Cells Might Be a Sound Call

This article from the LA Times summarizes the contraband cell phone challenges the California prison system is experiencing, with no solution seemingly in sight. However, the one positive and logical approach to this issue is suggested by Najee Ali – co-opt the problem by provisioning secure prison cell phone service, much like secure payphone service is currently offered.

When the nation’s most notorious mass murderer has a phone under the mattress in his cell, it’s hard to ignore the fact that security has broken down in California’s prison system.

And it’s logical to finger prison guards, especially after a state investigation discovered that a guard made $150,000 in one year smuggling phones to prison inmates, and another had 50 phones in his car in a prison parking lot, labeled with the names of convicts.

But cracking down on the most likely culprits isn’t as easy as it sounds. If we try to halt the flow of phones by making guards go through tedious and time-consuming security checks, like airport passengers, we have to pay them for the hours that will take, under an arcane labor deal called “walk time.”

That would cost the state millions of dollars, according to a story by Times reporter Jack Dolan on legislative efforts to approve criminal sanctions.

But abolishing “walk time” isn’t the solution. The provision is a staple of contracts in law enforcement — called “pre- and post-shift activities” in some, and “donning and doffing” in others.

It’s rooted in federal labor laws that compensate employees for work-related tasks they must do before or after their shifts — like travel through locked doors and across prison yards to posts in isolated gun towers.

For California prison guards, that translates to an extra hour of pay each week. Thirty years ago, “we cut a deal with the union,” said Craig Brown, who was part of the state’s negotiating team back then. “We said, ‘We’ll pay you for 12 minutes every day, whether you walk a minute or a half hour.'” It wasn’t considered a perk back then, he said, but a way to keep California on a budget.

Now Brown is on the other side, as chief lobbyist for the union of prison guards. And he bristles at the notion that guards are the bad guys in the cellphone scandal.

“They don’t just come in with employees, they come in by mail, they come in by visitors, they come in over the fence,” he said. “When an inmate wants a phone, somebody is going to supply him.”

Sure. But according to lawmakers, that “somebody” is most likely a prison employee.

Brown, and others before him, said phones in the hands of inmates jeopardize the safety of guards. Inmates have tried to organize institutional riots, escapes and prison crimes.

“The 90-plus percent of our good officers who want these things to run safely want to kick the ass of the guy that brings the cellphones in, because it endangers them,” Brown said. But they’re not willing to spend unpaid time lining up to be herded through metal detectors checking them for contraband phones.

Nor, it seems, are they willing to snitch on colleagues selling phones to convicts. “It’s a difficult individual decision,” he said. “Some officers would probably turn their head and pretend they didn’t see it. And some officers would try to solve the problem.

“Most of them just want to go to work, do their jobs and go home safe.”

Which is probably true for most of the inmates.


If I take Craig Brown’s word that the typical cellphone smuggler isn’t a corrections officer, then I might as well take Najee Ali’s word that the typical inmate with a contraband cellphone isn’t Charles Manson texting his followers.

Ali, a high-profile activist in Los Angeles’ black community, came home from prison last week. He spent two years behind bars for trying to bribe a witness in a criminal case involving a family member. He served his time at two prisons, Tehachapi and Avenal, in a medium-security dormitory “with three guards watching 1,000 inmates.”

And he kept in touch with folks back home on a BlackBerry he acquired behind bars, purchased for $500 from an inmate “who had a relationship with a guard.”

Inmate cellphones, in Ali’s view, are an “open secret” and a prison-tolerated management technique, he said. They help tamp down tensions among antsy convicts in overcrowded prisons. “If you have half the guys in a dorm with cellphones, that’s 500 guys who are pacified and not a threat to anyone’s safety.”

The idea of Manson with a flip phone fuels our outrage. “But for every person doing something illegal, there are hundreds of guys who just want to talk to their families and keep in touch with what’s going on back home,” he said. “…They’re talking to their mamas, their wives, looking at photos, checking on their Facebook pages.”

Guards look the other way at the black-market deals, he said. A state study showed that a prison employee can make $1,000 on a smuggled phone. “With pay cuts, furloughs, it’s tough for them,” Ali said. “The same guards who are bringing in the cellphones are the ones now acting all up in arms.

“At the end of the day, if the guards did not want us to have those phones, we would not have them,” Ali said. “They know it makes us less of a threat, to them and to each other.”

The worst-case scenarios are pretty bad: inmates on clandestine phones planning escapes, arranging drug deals, ordering hits on enemies.


But what Ali wanted to talk about was far less troubling: “You share your cellphone with other inmates, that eases a lot of tension throughout the building.

“It brought a sense of normalcy to my life. If we’re being real about this, it’s too far gone to stop it.”

Instead of metal detectors or high-tech scrambling systems, we ought to think about regulating prisoners’ access to cellphones, he said. Why not let some convicts have access — maybe minimum-security inmates or those with good prison behavior records?

“You could restrict the hours, like maybe they could only use them from 7 to 9. Or create a process for handing them out, like you check out a library book,” he said.

Ali’s idea could be a tool to promote order in our overcrowded prison system. And it might make honest men out of those prison guards who are drawn, like criminals, to a black market system.

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Contraband Cellphones Flood Ohio Prisons

As we have written about before, wireless airtime and contraband cell phones have become the new prison currency. According to this article, smuggled cell phones in Ohio prisons are “a commodity inside our system,” used to sell and barter, and for personal use, said Vinko Kucinic, the corrections department’s chief security-threat investigator. Gangs, he said, are “power-based. If they can control the contraband trade, they have power.” A cellphone costing $25 on the street can fetch $500-$700 on the prison black market. One way to reduce the value of wireless airtime as prison currency is to co-opt the non-criminal usage by supplying the secure prison cell phone solution offered by meshDETECT.

Illegal drugs, weapons, tobacco and cellphones are flooding Ohio’s prisons, spurring a new wave of violence as rival gangs battle for control of the black market.

The frequency of violent disturbances has doubled since 2008, leading Ohio’s top prison official to launch a study about whether a March 2009 tobacco ban is stirring the trouble.

“Tobacco has become a currency that’s used in our prisons,” Director Gary Mohr of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said.

Ohio’s prisons house more than 50,000 inmates and will cost taxpayers $1.57 billion in fiscal year 2012. Contraband has long been a problem in the prisons, with inmates gaining access to it through the mail, visitors and corrupt prison employees.

But Mohr said something new is happening: People in the outside world have become much bolder about throwing packages of contraband over perimeter fences, where inmates on work details can pick them up. Mohr said that’s especially true at prisons like Dayton Correctional Institution and Allen Correctional in Lima, where prison grounds abut areas accessible to the public.

“All over this country, facilities are being assaulted, almost, by outside people,” he said. “It’s a battle that didn’t exist in the past, certainly (not) to the degree we have it now.”

The ban on tobacco created a new black market, while a younger crop of tech-savvy inmates is also fueling an increasing trade in cellphones and accessories.

Officials say convicts are using smuggled cellphones to continue running outside-world criminal activity from inside prison walls and to coordinate more contraband drops.

That contraband is sparking prison-gang violence, officials say. “It’s a commodity inside our system,” used to sell and barter, and for personal use, said Vinko Kucinic, the corrections department’s chief security-threat investigator. Gangs, he said, are “power-based. If they can control the contraband trade, they have power.”

Mohr, a former Ohio prison official who worked in private-sector prisons for years, said he was “made sick” by the increase in violence he noticed after returning as director in January 2011.

“I could not fathom what was going on in our system,” he said.

The director has ordered his research department to investigate the causes of disturbances involving four inmates or more to see how many are linked to the illicit tobacco trade. He expects results in three or four weeks.

The frequency of those disturbances has jumped on average from one every 28 days in 2008 to one every 14 days in 2010, the first full year after the March 2009 ban, Mohr said. The policy was imposed by Mohr’s predecessor, Terry Collins, in a bid to cut inmate health care costs.

Mohr stopped short of saying he may lift the ban.

“I would have to weigh whether the degree of violence” outweighs the health benefits of outlawing tobacco, he said.

Smuggling even in ‘supermax’

Drug seizures nearly tripled in the first 11 months of 2011 when compared to all of 2008, jumping from 526 to 1,402. The number of confiscated weapons went from 534 to 1,061 and cellphones from 36 to 201, according to department statistics.

Even at the “supermax” Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, ultrasecure home to the state’s most incorrigible convicts, officials confiscated five cellphones and three chargers last year.

A guard under investigation in one of the phone-smuggling incidents resigned in November, said prison system spokeswoman JoEllen Smith.

Officials believe there are several reasons why seizures are up. They say smuggling is on the rise, but guards also are getting better intelligence from inmate tips that’s leading to more confiscations.

Nobody knows, of course, how much contraband goes undetected.

There’s big money involved in contraband smuggling. For example, guards found a 6-pound package of tobacco last week at a prison honor farm.

Mohr said just one hand-rolled cigarette from that package might sell for $5 in the prisons, even though cash itself is contraband.

Tobacco has become “the No. 1 contraband item of choice,” said Mark Stegemoller, chief investigator at Warren Correctional near Lebanon. “It’s very, very profitable. We just removed a staff member a couple months ago who was making a lot of money bringing in tobacco.”

Tobacco smuggling isn’t illegal, however, so smugglers can’t be criminally charged.

Cellphones are more valuable still. Stegemoller said a cellphone costing $25 on the street can fetch $500-$700 on the prison black market.

Warren and Allen Correctional have recently acquired police dogs trained to sniff out tobacco and cellphones as well as illegal drugs in a pilot program that could expand to other state prisons. It is illegal to convey cellphones into Ohio prisons.

Prison officials in Ohio and elsewhere say cellphone smuggling presents a serious threat because the phones allow inmates to orchestrate crimes outside prison gates, plot escapes and uprisings, intimidate witnesses, public officials and crime victims, and make plans for more smuggling.

They can speak freely on cellphones, while their conversations on prison phone systems are monitored.

“A cellphone is a very dangerous thing in our system,” Kucinic said. “Many times, they can be more dangerous than a shank.”

Illegal cellphones a U.S. epidemic

Cellphone smuggling is reaching epidemic proportions in prisons across the country, and at least one murder was ordered from inside jailhouse walls.

Last year, a New Jersey inmate was sentenced to 14 more years for using a smuggled phone to run an identity-theft ring targeting big-box retailers, allegedly with the help of seven Cleveland residents, the Plain Dealer reported.

Guards at a Georgia prison last summer found eight cellphones stitched up in the belly of a dead cat that had been thrown over a fence. At another Georgia prison, somebody rolled a basketball containing 50 phones through a hole in a perimeter fence.

Inmates at seven Georgia prisons in 2010 also used smuggled phones to stage a simultaneous strike for better pay and working conditions.

In California, legislative analysts found that corrupt prison employees — who, unlike visitors, don’t have to pass through metal detectors — were the main culprits in smuggling phones. More than 10,000 cellphones were confiscated in California prisons in 2010 and, according to Time magazine, one guard admitted to making more than $100,000 in a single year from phone smuggling. Twice in two years, California prison officials found cellphones in the possession of Charles Manson, the cult leader who plotted the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders.

In 2010, a South Carolina prison captain in charge of keeping out contraband was shot and nearly killed at his home, an attack ironically planned by an inmate with a smuggled cellphone.

Texas officials found 14 cellphones on death row inmates after one of them made threatening calls to a state senator in 2008.

And in 2007, a Baltimore jail inmate successfully used a smuggled cellphone to hire a hitman to kill a witness in his upcoming trial.

Ohio prison officials have found cellphones hidden inside items like tennis balls and stick-deodorant containers, tossed onto prison yards, and in camouflaged packages, including one that looked like a rock.

Prison officials have explored technology that could jam the signals of unauthorized cellphones, but such technology is expensive, fallible and may not be permitted under Federal Communications Commission regulations.

Some using dogs,low-tech security

In the absence of high-tech security measures, prisons are trying other measures.

At Warren Correctional, investigator Stegemoller uses Dyna, an 18-month-old Dutch shepherd, to sniff out illicit cellphones and tobacco, as well as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Dyna has been working since Nov. 1, homing in on the lithium in cellphone batteries. In a demonstration for Dayton Daily News, Dyna repeatedly and unerringly found cellphones and tobacco Stegemoller hid in a visitation room.

Dyna was purchased, along with a dog for the Lima prison, with a $27,000 grant. Allen Correctional had 117 phones confiscated since 2008, more than one-fourth of the system-wide total of 428.

It’s not clear how effective the dogs will be. Dyna has been responsible for only a handful of seizures so far. However, said Stegemoller: “The dog itself is a deterrent. As soon as I walk into a cellblock (with her), things start flushing and going out the window.”

Operations Deputy Rudy Pringle said during shakedown with the dog around Christmas, inmates “flushed so much stuff, it plugged up our sewage system.”

Prison officials acknowledge it’s a constant struggle to match wits with smugglers. “The prison lifestyle is a hustle,” Kucinic said. “In order to hustle, (inmates) want access to contraband. They’re very creative as to how they get (it) into our system. When you think you’ve got a (smuggling) method figured out, they’ll come up with a new one.”


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Woman Arrested Entering Prison With Cellphone In Rectum

Good thing she brought along a hands-free device!

On Sunday, at around 12:30 p.m., a woman attempted to enter La Reforma prison in San Rafael de Alajuela with a cellphone, its charger, and a hands-free device hidden in her rectum. The woman, who was visiting one of her three incarcerated brothers, was promptly arrested, according to the daily La Nación.

Earlier in the day, another woman who happened to be four months pregnant had tried to enter the same prison with 250 grams of marijuana stowed in her vagina. She too was arrested.

Reynaldo Villalobos, Deputy Director of Social Rehabilitation, told La Nación that this sneaky behavior is not uncommon.


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Borrowed Cellphone Slams Prison Cell Shut

This article touches on just about all the key issues and challenges facing prisons, detainees and families when talking about the contraband cell phone problem. Key quotes from the article:

Availability – “cellphones are just everywhere in prison nowadays…. It’s easy to borrow one from a guy”. “This year, guards (in California) are on pace to seize about 15,000 phones — nearly one for every 11 inmates.”

Corruption – “Almost as troubling as prisoners gaining access to cellphones is their frequent source: prison employees.”

Bribery – “State investigators found that another guard made $150,000 in a single year delivering cellphones to inmates.”

Crime – “Inmates have used cellphones to run drug rings, intimidate witnesses and order violent attacks on the outside.”

And finally and most importantly, a legislative and operational approach limited only to restricting supply instead of also seeking to co-opt legitimate demand for lawful communication with family by supplying a secure cell phone solution such as meshDETECT. If meshDETECT was available, this inmate could have legitimately called his family to notify him of his parole.

Dwayne Kennedy threw a man from a moving car in 1988, but that’s not what’s keeping him in prison today. It’s not the inmate he stabbed 17 years ago either; the state parole board forgave him that.

Instead, California prison officials are keeping Kennedy locked up for an extra five years — costing taxpayers roughly $250,000 — because guards caught him with a contraband cellphone he says he borrowed to tell his family he had just been granted parole and was coming home.

It was “just stupid on my part for even using it,” Kennedy told a pair of parole commissioners convened in June 2010 to decide his punishment for breaking prison rules. But “cellphones are just everywhere in prison nowadays…. It’s easy to borrow one from a guy,” Kennedy said.

Indeed, Kennedy’s access to the phone underscores a rapidly growing problem for California corrections officials. Just five years ago, only 261 of the devices turned up behind state prison walls. This year, guards are on pace to seize about 15,000 phones — nearly one for every 11 inmates. Almost as troubling as prisoners gaining access to cellphones is their frequent source: prison employees.

Last month, a federal grand jury charged Bobby Joe Kirby, a Northern California prison guard, with wire fraud. Inmates paid him for phones via Western Union and other services, according to the indictment. When Kirby showed up to collect the cash at one location, he had to answer a security question he arranged with the inmates. “What’s your favorite color,” the clerk asked. “Green,” Kirby replied.

State investigators found that another guard made $150,000 in a single year delivering cellphones to inmates. He was fired.

Phones are so prevalent in California prisons that even highly scrutinized inmates can get their hands on them. Charles Manson has been caught with two. Inmates have used cellphones to run drug rings, intimidate witnesses and order violent attacks on the outside. Despite state leaders’ rising anxiety over inmates obtaining phones, smuggling them into prisons wasn’t against the law until this month.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Oct. 6 making it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in a county jail. Brown also issued an executive order that requires prison officials to increase the number of random searches of employees and to determine how much it would cost to send them through airport-style screening on their way into work.

Under the new law, most inmates caught with phones face losing 90 days of credit earned for good behavior.

In Kennedy’s case, using the cellphone derailed his parole bid and effectively lengthened his prison stay by at least five years. That’s because a 2008 ballot measure extended the time inmates serving life sentences must wait for a new hearing when they are denied parole or their parole offer is revoked.

When the two parole commissioners met to decide his punishment for violating the cellphone rule, Kennedy said that he had made the calls because he was “overwhelmed and just happy” that he had been granted parole.

“He was so happy…. We were crying and praying,” recalled his sister, Yolanda Kennedy, one of the people he called.

But months later, parole commissioners John Peck and Dennis Smith found that Kennedy’s willingness to violate the prison rule proved he is an “unreasonable risk of danger to society.” They revoked his parole offer and imposed the five-year wait until his next hearing.

The commissioners’ decision seemed a bit severe to Debbie Mukamal, executive director of Stanford University’s Criminal Justice Center, who noted that the state is under a U.S. Supreme Court order to remove tens of thousands of inmates from its overcrowded prisons.

“I wonder if they’re punishing [cellphone use] more severely because it’s something they feel like they can’t control,” Mukamal said.

Heidi Rummel, a former federal prosecutor who now advocates for inmates’ rights as co-director of USC Law School’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, said there should be some evidence of harm before imposing such a harsh penalty.

“It would seem that why he had the cellphone would be a critical factor in deciding whether it made him a danger to society,” Rummel said.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court and the 2nd District Court of Appeal have rebuffed Kennedy’s efforts to get the decision overturned. His attorney, Keith Wattley, has filed a petition with the state Supreme Court. “There’s never been any allegation he’s done anything illegal with this phone,” Wattley said.

Kennedy, 44, has been in prison since 1990, serving 15 years to life for kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. He’s now at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blyth. He became eligible for parole in 1999 but a decade passed before parole commissioners found he was no longer a threat to society and recommended his release. They noted that Kennedy had stayed out of trouble for seven years and had a stable home and good job waiting for him on the outside.

The cellphone bust changed everything.

“Frankly, this panel didn’t buy that you were going to call your supporters to thank them,” said Peck, a parole board commissioner and recently retired prison guard who presided over the June 2010 hearing. “There is no way you would put your parole date at risk to make a thank-you call.”


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Jerry Brown Signs Prison Cellphone Bill

This bill and associated executive order are an attempt to hinder the smuggling of contraband cell phones into California prisons. These legislative efforts may slow the supply of cell phones, but they will not eliminate it.

Just as illegal drugs continue to flow into prisons around the country, contraband cell phone smuggling is supply meeting demand. Until a strategy to address the fundamental demand for more communications between prisoners and their loved ones is also addressed, the contraband value of smuggled cell phones will remain high and supply will continue flow into prisons. The meshDETECT secure cell phone solution can be a part of that demand-side strategy.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this morning toughening restrictions on illicit cellphones in prisons, and he ordered prison officials to step up efforts to confiscate smuggled phones.

Senate Bill 26, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, makes it a misdemeanor to deliver a cellphone to a prison inmate, among other things. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it was too soft on inmates who carry phones and on guards and others who smuggle them.

Brown also issued an executive order instructing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to increase physical searches of people who enter prisons and to develop a system to interrupt unauthorized cellphone calls.

Brown said in his order that prison staff discovered nearly 10,700 contraband cellular devices in 2010, and 7,300 in the first half of this year.

“Prisons exist to remove individuals from our communities who would otherwise do harm to their fellow citizens,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “When criminals in prison get possession of a cell phone, it subverts the very purpose of incarceration. They use these phones to organize gang activity, intimidate witnesses and commit crimes. Today’s action will help to break up an expanding criminal network and protect law-abiding Californians.”


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Remote Control Helicopter Smuggled Cellphone Into Prison

The creative smuggling of contraband cell phones into prison is not just limited to the Untied States as this article on a remote-controlled helicopter smuggling cell phones in Thailand shows.

We guess that it’s a generally accepted rule that cellphones aren’t allowed in prison, and we’re guessing it’s for a huge variety of reasons. After all the point of prison is to serve your time and rehabilitate yourself, and not to spend all day yakking on the phone, right? So how is it that in movies and television shows, prison inmates end up with cellphones? While the movies and television shows have been scripted, it seems that in Thailand, a rather innovative and unique method of smuggling cellphones has been uncovered.

It has been reported that a remote-controlled helicopter had crashed near a prison in Ratchaburi according to the local police yesterday. The helicopter was said to have been carrying cellphones along with cellphone parts/components and millions of Thai Baht, which we’re guessing was meant to be delivered to the prison inmates. Discovered inside the shockproof box that was attached beneath the helicopter, police found seven cellphones, four satellite phones, a number of SIM cards, eight cellphone batteries and three cellphone screens.

It seems that the cellphones, SIM cards and phone parts were meant to be sold on the prison’s black market. It was reported that parts and phones were worth anywhere between 2 million to 3 million Thai Baht, but it seems on the black market, it could have easily gone for 10 million Thai Baht ($321,387).


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UK Prison To Trial Phones In Prison Cells

Providing prisoners secure cell phones is an idea whose time has come. The latest British prison to provide land-line phones in prison cells to control the contraband cell phone problem is being chosen for a trial of service. This is after a similar successful trial in a private UK prison. According to the article, the reason for this latest initiative is, “to stamp out the illegal use of mobiles in prisons and the flourishing black market in smuggled phones. It will also end the scenes, made familiar by television dramas, of inmates queuing to use public phones on prison landings.”

Rather than undertaking the cost and hassle of wiring phones in cells, the benefit of using secure cell phones such as those provided by meshDETECT, would be that they can be handed out only to those who have earned them through good behavior. Still, this is a step in the right direction. The time has come to address the demand side of the supply-and-demand equation of smuggled cell phones in prison

Prisoners could soon have telephones installed in their cells, allowing them to make calls from their beds.

Officials are searching for a suitable jail to pilot the scheme and HMP Isis, a young offenders’ institution in South East London, is believed to be the most likely choice. The prison can hold 252 inmates in single and double cells, and each cell would have a landline phone installed.

The move is intended to stamp out the illegal use of mobiles in prisons and the flourishing black market in smuggled phones. It will also end the scenes, made familiar by television dramas, of inmates queuing to use public phones on prison landings.

Many people will regard the move as another perk for prisoners – but prison staff are backing the plan.

Mark Freeman, deputy general secretary at the Prison Officers Association, said: ‘We think it will improve control in prison.

‘There is a major problem with mobiles at present. People smuggle them in and there is a massive black market. Others bring in SIM cards. The more business-minded prisoners run the operation like a BT monopoly.

‘Then there are the problems with public phones on wings. There are complaints about long queues and inmates having phone cards snatched from them by bullies. Often only one of the three phones will be working.’

Mr Freeman said calls from cells would be recorded and monitored but insisted that, as staff would no longer have to supervise queues for the public phones, the scheme would save money in the long run.

Prisoners will have to pay for their own calls by buying phone cards or credit from the prison shop. They will also be issued with a personal account and PIN number which has to be dialled before getting an outside line. There will be no incoming calls.Inmates will have to supply prison staff with the names, addresses and phone numbers of people they wish to call

These lists will be vetted and agreed in advance to ensure that prisoners are not harassing victims or organising drug deals or other criminal rackets from behind bars.

Calls to sex lines and bookmakers will also be barred.

Precise details are still to be finalised and may vary from prison to prison. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: ‘The Prison Service is currently exploring the possibility of a pilot installation in a state-run establishment. We cannot be more specific about where the pilot site will be at this stage.’

The plan has angered some in the criminal justice system.

Chief Supt Derek Barnett, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: ‘This sends a confused message to many police officers who have spent time and effort investigating serious crimes and seeing the perpetrators sent to prison.

‘It’s important for prisoners to keep in touch with their families, but it would be difficult for police, victims and the public to understand this latest idea.’

John Howson, a council member of the 28,000-strong Magistrates’ Association, also accepted the importance of prisoners keeping in touch with family, but said a phone should be a ‘reward for hard work and good behaviour’.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, warned of the dangers of abuse.

He said many men were in jail following serious harassment of women, often ex-partners, and that one jail ¬currently held about 40 stalkers.

The vetting system would have to be very thorough to ensure there was no abuse, Mr Fletcher said. ‘Some women have had serious breakdowns and the danger is that the harassment could continue.’

Phil Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, is to raise the issue with Ministers. He said: ‘This is a ridiculous idea and is happening because the prison service is being run for the convenience of prisoners and staff.

‘The point is to be able to reduce the number of officers on duty. It’s another example of the justice system going soft, which makes the public lose confidence in it.

‘Many prisoners have a better standard of living inside than on the outside. No wonder people ask why prison doesn’t stop them reoffending.’

Phones have been installed in privately run prisons but this is the first time there has been a move to put them in state-run institutions.


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Corrections Officer On Probation For Smuggling Cell Phones

The main source of contraband cell phones in prison is the prison staff, including guards. They smuggle cell phones because the demand for wireless phones is so high that they can charge as much as $1000 per phone. This officer only received probation after being caught smuggling two cell phones. The threat of as many as three years in prison did not dissuade him from bringing contraband cell phones into his jail.

A former corrections officer at the Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown was placed on probation for two years after pleading guilty Wednesday in Washington County District Court to smuggling telephones to two inmates.

Chad Struntz, 26, of 11610 Poplar Ave., Cumberland, Md., received probation before judgment after entering the plea before visiting Judge Frederick Bower, according to court records.

Under probation before judgment, a conviction can be removed from the defendant’s record if he or she successfully completes probation.

Struntz was placed on probation before judgment over the objection of the prosecution, Assistant State’s Attorney Leon Debes said after the hearing.

Struntz was interviewed on April 6 as part of an investigation into the discovery of a cellphone in the cell of two inmates, according to the application for statement of charges. The investigation revealed that Struntz had purchased the phone on Feb. 27, the charging documents said.

Struntz told investigators that he had purchased and delivered a cellphone to an inmate on two occasions in exchange for money, the documents said. The second phone was also recovered.

Struntz was charged with two counts of delivering a telecommunication device, court records said. The second charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement, the records said.

State prison inmates are prohibited from having cellphones. The maximum penalty for delivering a telecommunication device to an inmate is three years in prison, court documents said.


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Cell Phone On Cellblock Means Trouble For Inmate

Even a person with a long history of crimes committed wants to keep in touch with and talk to her children. This person paid to use a smuggled cell phone to call family members. Now due to being caught with the contraband cell phone, she will spend more time in prison. There is a legitimate need for meshDETECT’s secure cell phone service in prisons.

A woman serving time in the Accomack County jail who was caught with a cellphone will serve six months in jail on top of the almost-six-year sentence she was already serving for crimes committed in both Shore counties.

Yolanda Stines, 35, of Painter, did not bring the phones into the jail, said defense attorney Theresa Bliss. They were brought in by an inmate who was serving weekends and used by several of the women in the cellblock, she said.

She said Stines used the telephone to call family members. Bliss told the court that Stine’s family was there to support her, including the aunt whose checks she stole and cashed.

“She’s had an unfortunate history in every sense of the word,” said Bliss of her client.

“This is a security issue and a serious offense that puts people at risk,” said Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Brenner. He told the court about the woman’s criminal history, saying Stines has “two and a half” pages of arrests, beginning when she was a juvenile.

Some of the crimes he listed were grand larceny, conspiracy to rob, forgery of public records and burglary. Some charges are pending in other jurisdictions, he said.

“When you look at her record, there is only one place for a woman like her.”

When asked by Judge Bonwill Shockley if she had anything to say, Stines said she used the phone to call her three children in Pennsylvania.

“I don’t know what is going on with you,” said the judge, sentencing Stines to two years and suspending all but six months.


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Prisons Seek Ally In Crackdown On Cellphones

This is an article on contraband prison cell phones is an interesting analysis of the impact smuggled cell phones have had on the revenue from prison payphones. In a quote from the article, a prisoner states, “The prison system is mad because nobody uses the phones on the wall anymore.” In California, as in other states, there has been a big drop in the number of prison phone calls made as illegal cell phones have become more prevalent. Unlike prison cell phone jammers, the meshDETECT secure cell phone solution has no upfront capital costs and recovers the prison phone call commissions currently being lost via the smuggled cell phones.

Frustrated by the state’s inability to prevent thousands of illicit cellphone calls made by inmates from its prisons, California’s corrections chief is seeking help from an industry that has a big financial interest in his cause.

Prisons Secretary Matthew Cate said he will offer a deal to companies that bid for the next contract to provide phone service for state inmates: Install costly equipment that will block cellphone calls and see profits surge as prisoners use authorized services to connect with the outside world.

“If cellphones are inoperable, the company will make more money,” Cate said in a recent interview.

Prisoners are supposed to use pay phones mounted on the walls of their housing units to call people outside. They are charged collect call rates, and the conversations are recorded and monitored by prison staff. But the proliferation of smuggled cellphones in recent years has reduced use of the authorized phones and the ability to monitor them, and officials say they cannot afford the technology to block cellular signals.

The contract for inmate phone service is up for renewal. Cate wants the winning bidder to pay the estimated $16.5 million to $33 million that it would cost to install “managed access” systems in all 33 state prisons.

In one day earlier this year, a test of the system intercepted more than 4,000 attempts to place calls, send text messages and access the Internet from smuggled cellphones at a single prison, said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Paul Verke. He would not reveal which prison, citing security concerns.

Use of authorized phones went up by 64% in the days after the test, Verke said.

Dorothy Cukier, an attorney for Global Tel Link, the Alabama company that supplies pay phones and collect call service to California’s prisons, said that “contraband cellphones certainly have had an impact” on the number of calls placed from her company’s phones. The firm “welcomes the opportunity to discuss” Cate’s proposal, she said.

Prisoners’ rights advocates and civil libertarians say Cate’s plan would lead to financial exploitation of inmates and their families, many of whom struggle to pay for daily necessities. A typical 15-minute call from an inmate costs about $2.

“When the prison system gives the phone company a monopoly, they jack up the price,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national prison project. “What we want to do is encourage more contact. That’s a prime predictor of [inmates’] success in the future.”

Bobby Taylor, who was recently released from Avenal State Prison in Central California, where he served part of a 19-month sentence for drunk driving, said he had a Samsung phone for most of his time there. He stayed out of trouble checking Facebook, following his favorite fishing websites and staying in touch with his 13-year-old daughter, he said.

“The prison system is mad because nobody uses the phones on the wall anymore,” Taylor said.

The state’s take from the pay phone concession was $26 million in 2008, when legislation was passed to bring down the cost of inmates’ calls. The government’s share has been reduced by $6.5 million per year since, prison officials said, and will be reduced further, to $800,000, this year.

Prison officials have been warning legislators that the explosion of smuggled cellphones — guards confiscated 261 devices in 2006 and more than 10,000 in 2010 — poses a public safety threat. Inmates use them to run criminal enterprises from behind bars and arrange assaults on enemies inside. Even the most closely watched inmates have been caught with them. Notorious killer Charles Manson has been caught with two.

Legislators complain that prison employees are the most likely sources of smuggled phones because, unlike visitors who must go through metal detectors, employees are not searched on their way into work.

Taylor said he rarely saw anyone using the wall-mounted pay phones during his sentence at Avenal.

“I think the only time people would use the wall phones,” he said, “was to call their people” on the outside “and get another cellphone.”


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