Tag Archives: cellphones

Few Consequences For Texas Prison Cell Phone Smuggling

texas-prison-cell-phoneA Texas Tribune investigation has found that few inmates or correctional officers face legal consequences for smuggling cellphones even as prison officials have intensified efforts to keep the devices out of prisons. Just 5 percent of cellphone smuggling cases investigated by the Criminal Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General from 2009 to 2013 resulted in a criminal sentence, according to documents obtained from the office through a public information request.

Some notable excerpts from the article:

In 2003, legislators made smuggling the devices into prisons a felony. Since 2009, the state has allocated $10 million every two years for “security enhancements for contraband interdiction,” said Robert Hurst, a Criminal Justice Department spokesman.

The enhancements include a special K-9 unit responsible for sniffing out cellphones, increased video surveillance of guards and the addition of “managed access systems” at two prisons that intercept all but a few specified outgoing cellular signals.

The costs of the offender telephone service are “so high, that’s one of the reasons why inmates turn to cellphones,” said Michele Deitch, a prisons expert at the University of Texas at Austin. “They really need the phone access, which promotes healthier families, but at those rates it becomes an incredible burden on the families.” A phone call with the service costs up to 26 cents per minute.

For guards, who risk their jobs and felony charges by dealing in contraband, the financial reward can be much larger than their salaries.

“The temptation is there, if there’s not a strong deterrent to misbehavior,” said Pelz, the former warden, adding that a smuggled cellphone can fetch up to $3,000. “Your weakest link is the employees bringing the contraband in.”

Lance Lowry, president of the Texas correctional employees local of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Emlpoyees union, said many who resort to smuggling were trying to supplement low wages. Entry-level correctional officers make about $29,000 a year. At that rate, one cellphone could amount to 10 percent of an officer’s annual salary.

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Dial-up Dinners Plan For New Jail

A new prison in Australia is proposing the installation of advanced technology in each of the cells. This will include in-cell telephones. The private prison company Serco states, “The introduction of in-cell telephones in its overseas prisons had resulted in significant improvements in prison security, including a drop in the number of prisoners trying to smuggle cellphones.”

The meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution allows existing prisons and jails to realize the same reduction in contraband cell phones without the expense of installing hard-wired phones in each cell.

Prisoners would get telephones, televisions and “electronic menu” systems in the cells of a private prison in south Auckland under plans being considered by the Department of Corrections.

British-based company Serco, which will manage the new 960-bed prison at Wiri, has introduced the technology in its prisons overseas and wants to do the same here.

The proposal includes introducing “custodial management system” screens to prison units – and in some cases to individual cells – so inmates could order meals, write shopping lists, add credit to phone accounts and see weekly timetables.

Serco said the introduction of in-cell telephones in its overseas prisons had resulted in significant improvements in prison security, including a drop in the number of prisoners trying to smuggle cellphones.

TV sets were allowed in cells, depending on prisoners’ behaviour.

Serco would not say whether it planned to use the new technology in the Wiri prison, but a Department of Corrections spokesman confirmed it was in the company’s proposal.

The SecureFuture consortium, comprised of Macquarie (financial arranger), Fletcher Construction (design and construction), Spotless (facility management provider), and Serco (operator and custodial services provider) is the preferred bidder for the $300 million 25-year contract to build and run the facility.

Canterbury University Professor of Sociology and former Paremoremo Prison inmate Greg Newbold said introducing the technology was clearly a cost-cutting exercise.

“Those private prisons have to run at a profit and 80 per cent of the cost of running prisons is in manpower.

“If you can do the administrative things electronically, you reduce the need for staff on the floor and you can run a prison more efficiently and more cheaply.

Corrections Association president Beven Hanlon said the in-cell technology could save prison officers hours of mundane paperwork.

“At the moment if the prisoner wants something they have to come up to an officer and request it, so introducing these screens would mean if they’re short on toilet paper or they need a new toothbrush etc they can just enter it in.”

“But they should use it in the right way – let’s not get crazy on it and turn these places into the Hilton.”

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said he was “dumbfounded” by the proposal.

” I’ve seen no evidence that making prison a more comfortable place to be is any more likely to reduce offending than making prison a place that is unpleasant and where offenders should not want to go back to,” he said.


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In Prison, A Cellphone Really Is A “Cell” Phone

This article by David Yannetti, describes not only the criminal uses of contraband prison cell phones, but also the potentially positive effects on maintaining family ties via a managed and secure prison cell phone solution:

Recent news reports highlight the challenge prison officials face in dealing with the proliferation of cell phone usage in prison across the nation.

Cell phones are nominally prohibited for prisoners in all state and federal prisons, but they turn up by the thousands, and the problem has been made even more difficult with the advent of Smartphones.

With a Smartphone, prisoners may have full access to the Internet, allowing all forms of activity, from contacting friends and family and shopping to directing attacks on other prisoners and criminal activity outside the prison.

Strikes Organized with the Help of Facebook

In Georgia, the New York Times reported, prisoners organized a strike using cellphones and internet applications like Facebook. The protest was concerned with the lack of pay for their work, bad food and limited visitation policies.

Unlike other protests, the prisoners were able to post up-to-minute reports and follow their coverage in the news media.

Prison officials have struggled to come up with a workable solution to prevent this prisoner access to cellphones. Results have been mixed. In California, 11,000 phones were confiscated in 2010. South Carolina collects 2,000 a year.

Some are smuggled in, but many are literally thrown “over the wall.” They have been kicked in soccer and footballs, shot through “potato guns” and are often thrown in packs camouflaged with grass to make it difficult for guards to discover them laying inside the fence.

Search Everyone?

Can’t everyone be searched? Well, yes, but that costs money. California has estimated that searching all employees and contractors entering the prisons within the state system would cost $20 million. Even limited, random searches are calculated to cost $1.3 million annually.

Jam the Signal?

No, the federal Communication Act of 1934 prohibits jamming of radio frequencies.

The most promising technological solution could be the system introduced in Mississippi. Known as managed access, it allows the system to track every call and text. Cellphones that are not on the approved receive a message saying the device is illegal and are disabled.

California, with largest state prison system, will follow the lead of Mississippi and implement a system of managed access. In Mississippi, the system intercepted over 600,000 calls and texts during the six-month trial period.


While the phones may used for criminal or dangerous behavior, there is an aspect of the issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Cellphones are used by prisoners to communicate with their family. The New York Times article notes that David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “Inmates are more likely to successfully re-enter society if they maintain relationships with friends and families.”

A prisoner named Mike is mentioned in the story as regularly speaking with his son when the boy gets off the school bus and when he goes to bed at night. Prison often has a corrosive affect on family relationships, so developing a way to use cellphones to lessen this effect would be helpful. A managed network could be constructed to permit certain prisoners to have operational cell phones, say, as a reward for good behavior.

As the Justice Center of the Council on State Government reports, 77 percent of state prisoners will be released back to their communities.

While it is important to control cellphone usage to for the safety of prison personnel and other inmates, ignoring the needs of inmates who will be released can only lead to increased recidivism and a return of many to prison, carrying with it the all of associated costs to the states that they can ill afford.

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Prisons Battle Cellphone Smuggling

An interesting overview of the problems smuggled cell phones in prison create in jails throughout the United States. As usual however, the discussion of possible solutions focuses on reducing supply and signal jamming, but offers no consideration of a strategy reducing the DEMAND for contraband cell phones.

By co-opting prisoners’ legitimate desire for more frequent and easier telephone access to family, prisons can reduce the overall demand for contraband cell phones and reduce the incentive to smuggle them into jails. This demand can be met by offering prisoners the meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution.

Devices behind bars can have deadly results. Jamming could aid in the fight, but bugs need to be worked out.

Guards found the dead tomcat last summer, lying between two fences that separate inmates at Phillips State Prison in Buford from the outside world.

Curiously, the cat’s belly had been stitched together, so suspicious prison officials took a closer look. Inside the animal, they found eight cellphones. Someone had tried to toss the dead feline over both fences, but the throw fell short.

At Hancock State Prison, a basketball filled with 50 cellphones was rolled through a hole in a perimeter fence. A guard at the same prison allegedly tried to smuggle in a phone wrapped in aluminum foil, disguised as a baked potato.

Georgia prison officials say cellphone smuggling is the most pressing problem they face. Cellphones are such a hot commodity inside the walls they’re being confiscated by the thousands.

And officials say the phones are a menace, wreaking havoc inside and outside the cell blocks. Phones are used to coordinate attacks inside the prison walls and are enabling inmates to continue criminal activity outside of prison. They’ve been used to threaten witnesses and coordinate simultaneous protests at multiple prisons.

“They present a clear and present threat, not only to the inmates themselves but to our staff and to the public,” Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said. “They’re not about calling mom on Thanksgiving. They’re for power, money and gangs. It’s a big business and a tremendous problem.”

Over a one-year period ending in July, corrections officials confiscated more than 8,700 illegal cellphones, Owens said. “And if we’ve confiscated 8,700 cellphones, the question I have is how many have we not been able to seize?”

Behind bars, the cellphones, mostly prepaid, cost $200 to $600 each.

Owens said a jamming device that blocks cellphone signals would allow prison systems to combat the problem. But the Federal Communications Commission has not allowed states to use it, despite a report from the National Institute of Justice that indicates cellphone use is a problem at prisons across the country:

*In Texas, a death row inmate who killed four people used a cellphone to threaten a state senator, prompting a lockdown of the entire prison system.

*In Nevada, a prison dental assistant was convicted of helping an inmate get a cellphone to plan a successful escape.

*In South Carolina, a captain in charge of intercepting prison contraband was shot six times in the chest at his home after an inmate used a cellphone to call an ex-con to carry out the hit.

Even the most dangerous inmates — those who are the most closely monitored — have been caught with cellphones.

While Fulton County courthouse killer Brian Nichols awaited trial in jail, someone smuggled phones to him on two occasions. Nichols, who was later convicted of killing a judge, a deputy and another man in the courthouse rampage, used the phones to plot an escape and send lewd photos of himself to his pen-pal girlfriend.

Last year, California prison officials found a cellphone on notorious mass murderer Charles Manson — the second one found on him in two years.

In Georgia, it is a felony to smuggle a cellphone into prison, with a maximum punishment of five years behind bars. The prison system asks the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to extend sentences by six months for all inmates caught with cellphones.

But the smuggling hasn’t landed only inmates in hot water. Last year, 312 civilians and 59 prison staff members were charged with trying to smuggle contraband inside state prisons, and most cases involved cellphones, Owens said.

Owens, who has overseen the system since 2009, says he has an easy answer when asked what his biggest problem is.

“It’s not our budget, not staffing, not infrastructure, not overcrowding,” he said. “It’s cellphones.”

Before cellphones, inmates could only use prison pay phones, and officials decided who inmates could call, when they could call and how much time they could spend on the phone. The calls were recorded. But inmates say cellphones are much less costly than the expensive collect calls paid for by their families.

On Nov. 28, Gov. Nathan Deal wrote the FCC, asking it to reconsider its position on the use of jamming devices to disrupt cellphone calls in prisons. Deal noted that two recent disturbances at state prisons “only continue to underscore the nationwide epidemic of illegal cellphone usage in prison facilities across the United States.”

The incidents — one at Telfair State Prison, the other at Hancock State Prison — left 15 inmates hospitalized and a guard with a leg injury, Deal wrote. Illegal cellphones were found to be the catalysts behind the two fights, the governor wrote.

Deal said prison officials have investigated a number of technologies to fight cellphone use in prison and are convinced that cellphone “jammers” are the most cost-efficient and timely response.

“Carving out an exception for the use of this technology in prison facilities is sound policy to protect inmates, corrections employees and the public,” he wrote.

The FCC shares Deal’s concerns and is working with prison authorities and others to address the matter, a commission spokesman said. There are concerns, however, that the technology poses a risk of interfering with legal calls outside the prison grounds, including calls to public safety, the spokesman said.

Other states use dogs to sniff out illegal cellphones. At least two states have used a technology that, instead of jamming calls, prevents calls from reaching their destination. But Owens said those methods are too costly. He estimated that “managed access” technology would cost the prison system millions of dollars. Using dogs to find cellphones also would end up being too expensive, he said, because he would have to hire and train dozens of new corrections officers.

Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University in Virginia who has studied the issue, said there are legitimate concerns that jamming devices could disable phones used by law enforcement.

“If I’m driving by as a police officer, I’d be concerned whether a jamming device inside a prison is going to jam my own frequency,” Burke said. “But the technology is advancing and can probably be isolated enough so that it’s not going to interfere with phones outside the prison setting. And in rural areas, where many prisons are located, who are you going to interfere with anyway?”

District Attorney Fred Bright said cellphone smuggling is a big problem in his sprawling eight-county circuit, which includes a number of Middle Georgia and east Georgia prisons.

His office prosecutes 40 to 50 cases a year involving inmates, prison workers and visitors, he said. This included an indictment against a guard caught trying to sneak in a cellphone he’d stuffed inside a fish sandwich, Bright said.

The GBI is investigating a cellphone smuggling case at a unspecified prison in Middle Georgia, said the agency’s director, Vernon Keenan. It began as a drug smuggling case but has broadened in scope, he said.

Keenan added that the GBI is often called in when there are assaults inside the prison system and during those investigations agents have learned that cellphones were involved in coordinating the attacks.

One prison inmate recently killed a fellow inmate during an argument over a cellphone, Owens said, declining to give more details because the investigation is ongoing.

Federal prosecutors in Atlanta recently convicted Carlos Garcia for using a cellphone smuggled to him inside Valdosta State Prison to transfer $250 from a 93-year-old woman’s credit union account to his inmate account.

The 36-year-old inmate had obtained the victim’s credit union account numbers and PIN number from an accomplice, who had stolen the woman’s wallet while she was shopping in Conyers.

At the time, Garcia was serving a 10-year term for identity theft and fraud convictions in DeKalb County. After transferring the money to his prison account, he tried to steal again from the elderly victim, who had $120,000 in the bank, prosecutors said.

Garcia used his cellphone to make online purchases. But, by that time, law enforcement officials were already onto the scheme and blocked the transactions.

Prosecutors said the inmate was charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft after he called the credit union to find out why the charges were not going through.


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Rikers ‘Cell’ Hound

Smuggled cell phone detection by a dog at Riker’s Island prison is the topic of this article. The article states that smuggled cellphones haven’t been as big a problem in New York as they’ve been in other areas. The reason is the generous policy on the use of land lines.

“New York state facilities charge inmates less for phone use and offer greater access than other states, said state prison spokesman Peter Cutler. That cuts the demand for the phones for all but hardened criminals, because those who just want to keep in touch with friends, families and lawyers can do so.”

This is another validation of our position that the problem of contraband cell phones in prison is an issue of supply AND demand. By addressing the demand for greater access to telecommunications services by deploying the meshDETECT secure prison cell phone service, prisons and jails can reduce the number of smuggled cell phones entering their facilities.

A new member of the patrol force at Rikers Island is poised to take a megabyte out of crime.

A dog trained to sniff out cellphones will soon be roaming the prison’s corridors searching for mobile devices, which are forbidden to inmates.

Inmates love cellphones because prison official monitor land-line calls — while cellphones can be used in the privacy of cells.

Prisoners have been known to use them to set up drug deals, threaten witnesses, keep running their organizations and even coordinate escape attempts.

Dogs love cellphones because they are a delight to their noses.

The dogs are trained to zero in on the lithium batteries, but they have also proven adept at locating other parts of the phones, including chargers and earpieces.

The dogs typically cost $6,000 and are on the job in several other states.

Cellphones pose a “serious risk to staff and inmates,” said Sharman Stein, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Correction.

She declined to provide details about the dogs or their training — refusing even to disclose the name of the new recruit. She cited “security reasons.’’

Authorities said, however, that the canine will join the department’s team of drug-sniffing pooches.

So far, smuggled cellphones haven’t been as big a problem in New York as they’ve been in other areas.

In city prisons, 31 cellphones were confiscated as of mid-October this year, 37 in 2010 and 14 in 2009, according to the Department of Correction.

In New York state-operated facilities, 85 phones were confiscated in 2010.

Not all of them were taken from prisoners — many were found on staff or visitors, who are not allowed to bring them past the front door.

Another reason the problem is not as severe in the city and state systems is their generous policy on the use of land lines.

New York state facilities charge inmates less for phone use and offer greater access than other states, said state prison spokesman Peter Cutler.

That cuts the demand for the phones for all but hardened criminals, because those who just want to keep in touch with friends, families and lawyers can do so.


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Prison Raid Nets 60 Cell Phones

Smuggled cell phones in prison are a problem globally as this article from South Africa highlights. As in the US, the contraband phones are believed to be smuggled into the prison by guards. In addition to the scam mentioned in the article, “Prisoners use the phones to contact family and spouses, or to surf the internet.” Just as they are used in prisons here.

Sixty cellphones, sim cards, a bucketful of phone chargers, earphones and adaptors were seized by warders at Westville Prison’s Medium-B cells, in a surprise night raid this week.

It was the second such raid since the Daily News reported on a phone scam conducted from within the prison. The first raid netted 50 cellphones.

It was reported that a scam artist caught people by pretending to be a policeman, threatening them with arrest if they did not settle outstanding traffic fines by depositing money into a Money Market account. He taunted a victim by saying he was calling from inside Westville Prison.

Prison sources revealed they were closing in on the culprit.

Prisoners use the phones to contact family and spouses, or to surf the internet.

Phones recovered ranged from Blackberrys to R99 models, and are sold to prisoners for between R200 ($25) and R2 500 ($63). Some warders are believed to be behind the smuggling of these items.

They are estimated to be raking in more than R20,000 ($2537) a month by selling cellphones, drugs and other prohibited items, high ranking sources at the prison have revealed.

Five Westville Prison warders are being investigated by the Department of Correctional Services for corruption.

Prison section head, Mfanafuthi Nxumalo, on Thursday confirmed the raids and corruption charges against the warders.

Also found in Wednesday night’s raid were four home-made knives, stolen food, electric sandwich toasters, dagga, mandrax and cash.

Items confiscated are banned from the prison, especially cellphones which are not allowed on the premises, even by staff, he said.

Medium-B houses more than 4,000 criminals – almost twice its capacity – many of whom are serving multiple life-sentences for rape and murder. Fewer than 200 warders are deployed in the section.

The sources said the latest raid was conducted among less than a quarter of the inmates because of limited resources and staff shortages at the prison.

“After lockdown, they tend to take out all this stuff. It’s not hidden and is often found lying on their bed or in their possession.

“During the day these things are stashed all over the place. But, when routine day searches are conducted, phones and sim cards have been found hidden in soap bars and the prisoners’ mouths. (A cellphone) is often wrapped in plastic and then inserted either in the rectum or vagina. The prisoners can conceal things in many parts of their bodies. Unfortunately the prison does not have the latest scanners, X-ray machines and other devices that can detect cellphones. Despite various checks by warders, they get past us.”

Attempts were made to try to cut off the cellphone signal completely, but prison authorities were told it could have fatal consequences.

“This technology apparently affects how a pacemaker works and could end up killing someone.”

During Wednesday’s raid, nine prisoners were found with the phones on them. The other cellphones were found in the cells.

Confiscated phones are kept for about a month. Those suspected to have been used to conduct criminal activities are given to police and the rest are destroyed – smashed to pieces with a hammer, the sources said.


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Jail Warders Face Heat For Phone Usage

This article highlights some of the challenges and issues associated with the use of wireless signal jammers to stop the use of contraband cell phones smuggled into a prison in India.

With a spate of murders and extortions being abetted from Puducherry Central Prison in India by criminals inside, the Jail authorities have woken up and have taken stringent measures.

A team of security personnel on special duty seized a dozen cellphones from the jail premises since Thursday.

Jail superintendent Jayakandan and nine Jail warders have been chargesheeted for the use of personal cellphones inside the prison premises, said IG Prisons, Pankaj Kumar Jha. The prison rules state that no one is permitted to use cellphones inside the premises, except a few senior officials.Despite the installation of three jammers inside the prison and x-ray baggage scanner at? the entrance, the use of cellphone in prison has gone uncontrolled.

Three prisoners were given an additional three months imprisonment for possessing cellphones inside the Central Prison Puducherry by Judicial Magistrate-I Puducherry District Court in August last, but even that has not deterred the inmates.

Usually, cellphones reach the prisoners when they are taken out to court or a hospital. Sometimes, cellphones are thrown into the prison complex from outside, sources said.

The three jammers installed in the prison are not enough to block the cellphone signals in the entire premises. As the second phase of construction of prison complex is to begin, more towers with jammers cannot be installed to cover entire area.Further, power failure also adds to the problems of the jail authorities as the jammers do not work during outages. However, on completion, towers at appropriate place could be erected to jam mobile signals in the entire prison area, said Jha.

The prison is also short of staff. Though 42 posts of Assistant Superintendent of Jails (ASJ), Warders, Principal warders have been filled up, 18 warders and five ASJs have gone on training, which is expected to get over in four months.


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Correctional Staff Intercept Cellphones

The smuggling of cellphones into California prisons continues, even as the legislation to criminalize contraband cell phone smuggling moves forward in the legislature.

Staff at Avenal State Prison last week found cellphones, cellphone batteries and chargers and tobacco after a sergeant noticed a security fence breach on the south of the facility.

The discovery on Friday came one day after a key legislative committee approved Senate Bill 26, which would criminalize smuggling wireless devices into prison facilities.

According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the discovery netted two bags filled with:

• 173 bundles of tobacco weighing approximately 17 pounds
• 25 cellular phones
• 26 cell phone chargers
• 11 cell phone batteries
• 5 cigarette lighters
• 1 pair of cell phone ear-buds
• 3 Micro SD memory cards

SB 26, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would make smuggling cellphones or other wireless devices punishable by six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per device. Inmates caught with a device would permanently lose up to 90 days of sentence credits.

The measure also includes language that protects anyone from prosecution who accidentally brings a cellphone into a prison, protects cellphone data from unwarranted inspection by the state and requires that the new inmate phone system contract may not increase the cost of inmate calls.

A committee analysis of the bill notes:

A sample of search results through June 2011 shows 673 searches, resulting in the following contraband: 471 cell phones; 450 flash drives; 125 DVDs; 697 CDs; 110 iPods; 302 lighters or matches; 4,678 miscellaneous contraband objects.

These 673 searches also resulted in 1,156 disciplinary letters of instruction pending review by the warden, and 337 disciplinary referrals to internal affairs.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the measure 17-0 on Thursday, setting the stage for a vote by the full chamber.


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Another DOC Asks Facebook To Remove Inmate Pages

The Washington State Department of corrections has asked Facebook to remove inmate Facebook pages. It joins California in trying to stop the social media activity of prisoners. Internet access on smuggled cell phones is not thought to be a major contributor to the problem, but over time this will change.

Facebook, which has become the ultimate time killer, will likely no longer be permitted for people serving time.

The Washington state Department of Corrections (DOC) has begun talks with the social-networking giant to have inmate accounts disabled, said prisons spokesman Chad Lewis. The move was spurred by an announcement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation earlier this month that Facebook has agreed to take down inmates’ pages.

In Washington, the decision to try to ban inmates from offering status updates, “liking” friends’ photos, commenting on videos and sending messages will likely affect only a handful of inmates, Lewis said.

Over the last year, corrections officers have confiscated about 40 contraband cellphones from prisoners — the vast majority did not have the smartphone technology necessary for Facebook usage, said Lewis.

Inmates are forbidden from possessing or using cellphones in Washington prisons, and they are not allowed to use the Internet on prison computers.

Corrections staff believe that family or friends of inmates have been keeping the jailbirds’ accounts going from outside prison walls, which is a direct violation of a Facebook policy prohibiting anyone else from using another person’s account, Lewis said.

“We think most of the time if an offender’s Facebook status is updated it’s a family member or a friend updating it,” Lewis said. “The indication has not been that anything illegal has been done. It has mostly been males trying to communicate with their wives or girlfriends or sharing naughty photos.”

The same DOC investigators who scour inmate letters, listen in on phone calls and check the highly secured instant-messaging system that prisoners are allowed to use to communicate with a specific list of people, are checking Facebook regularly looking for inmate accounts, Lewis said.

Corrections officials initially considered asking the Legislature to make the possession of Facebook accounts by inmates a crime punishable by additional prison time, but the proposal was shelved because of the potential financial costs. If just establishing an agreement with Facebook doesn’t work, Lewis said that DOC will consider legislation in 2013.


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Cut Off Cellphones In Prison Cells

This recent editorial on contraband cell phones from the LA Times advocates making the penalties for smuggling cell phones into prisons harsher. And perhaps tougher penalties for those guards and prison staff who are caught smuggling prison cell phones would act as deterrence for some. But with over 10,000 cell phones confiscated in California jails last year alone, it is unlikely a new law will significantly stem the tide of smuggled wireless phones into prisons. A new approach, one that reduces the contraband value of smuggled cell phones, is needed. By offering a secure cell phone service to prisoners, the legitimate use of these illegal phones, calls to friends and family, will be siphoned off. This will reduce the number of cell phones smuggled as well as the amount paid for them. The key to reducing supply is to reduce demand. The meshDETECT secure cell phone solution does exactly that.

It was bad enough when we learned in December that mass murderer and renowned psychopath Charles Manson was sending texts to folks outside prison walls using a flip phone that he kept hidden under his mattress. Now comes word that California inmates may be friending your kids on Facebook.

Officials at the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced this week that they’ve made an arrangement with the popular social-media site to take down pages belonging to inmates that have been updated since the owners went to prison. It seems that convicts are using contraband cellphones with Web browsers to harass their victims or issue threats on Facebook. Prisoners who set up Facebook accounts before being convicted are allowed to keep them, but if they’re updated while the inmate is still doing time, the company has agreed to take action.

That’s nice. But what’s to stop inmates from jumping to Google+ or Twitter? The problem doesn’t lie with the myriad websites where prisoners can go to plot violent crimes, conduct drug deals, order gang actions, plan escapes or engage in other mischief; it’s within the prisons themselves. More than 10,000 contraband cellphones were confiscated in California prisons last year, up from 1,400 in 2007.

A case making its way through federal court in Sacramento shows at least one way these phones are finding their way to inmates. Prison guard Bobby Joe Kirby is accused of collecting thousands of dollars in wire transfers from prisoners and their associates in exchange for smuggling cellphones and tobacco products into a correctional center in Susanville. Kirby is facing wire fraud charges, but in other cases in which guards or prison employees have been caught smuggling phones, they’ve gotten off with a slap on the wrist.

Two bills aim to solve this problem. The first, from state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), would make it a misdemeanor to smuggle a cellphone into a state prison, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. In one of the occasional logical breakdowns that characterized his tenure, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill last year because he thought it wasn’t tough enough — Schwarzenegger wanted the crime to be a felony. Maybe it should be, but it makes little sense to reject a measure that would at least make penalties stiffer than they are now; moreover, Democrats in the Legislature have wisely put a moratorium on drafting new felony laws until the state’s prison overcrowding crisis is solved. The other bill, from Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would permit random monthly searches of prison employees for contraband. Both bills passed the Senate unanimously; the Assembly should follow suit, and Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them.


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