Tag Archives: department of corrections

Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs

Cell-phones-at-nightHere is the latest summary of recent news articles regarding contraband cell phones in prisons around the world. I call these periodic round up of news items, “Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs” because this is essentially what smuggled mobile phones in jails have become – a substitute for the current wall mounted prison payphones.

Convicted Killer Among Group of Prisoners Given Permission to Buy Mobile Phone:
A convicted killer is among a group of prisoners at an open jail given permission to buy a mobile phone.

Ten inmates at Loughan House jail in Blacklion, Co Cavan, were allowed to buy a handset late last week. And among the first to get their hands on the phones was convicted killer Nigel Kenny. He and the nine other inmates were told by Governor William Reilly that they could buy the Samsung handsets with a charger and €5 credit for €25 on Friday.

The programme is expected to be rolled out to all prisoners at the open jail over the coming weeks. Mobile phones have already been given to inmates at Shelton Abbey open prison in Co Wicklow… (source)

Romania to Implement Mobile Signal Jammers in Prisons to Curb Phone Fraud by Inmates:
Romania plans to implement a system that will jam mobile phone reception in prisons starting 2015, which should limit the number and use of mobile phones in prisons, but also corruption among prison employees.

The unauthorized use of mobile phones by inmates was central to many fraud cases where prisoners called gullible individuals and asked for money by giving them fake information. One of the most common schemed used was for inmates to call people and pretend they were lawyers, working with a family member who was taken by the Police and who needed money to be released, convincing families to send them over the money… (source)

Smuggled Cellphones Creating Havoc in Prisons: They’re hidden in babies’ diapers, ramen noodle soup packages, footballs, soda cans and even body cavities.

Not drugs or weapons, but cellphones. They’re becoming a growing problem in prisons across America as they are used to make threats, plan escapes and for inmates to continue to make money from illegal activity even while behind bars.

“You can pick states all across the country and you’ll see everything from hits being ordered on individuals to criminal enterprises being run from inside institutions with cellphones,” said Michael Crews, head of Florida’s Department of Corrections.

When two murderers serving life sentences escaped from Florida Panhandle prison last fall, a search of their cells turned up a cellphone used to help plan the getaway, drawing attention to the burgeoning problem. It was just one of 4,200 cellphones confiscated by prison officials last year, or 11 per day…(source)

Blocking Cell Phone Calls from Prisons: Good Idea, Dumb Policy: Honduras has embarked on a very stupid program of forcing its cell phone providers to block calls from within the 23 prisons in Honduras. It’s not that the idea is necessarily bad. But the implementation they chose is exceptionally stupid. The Honduran Congress under Porfirio Lobo passed a bill that requires cell phone providers to block any calls from prisons. This is not something that is done easily in a standard cell phone base station and requires special programming (and probably required the purchase of that capability from the base station provider).

The idiocy comes from the fact that the law specifies that for each prison location, no cell phone be able to complete a call, text message, or Internet connection within a one kilometer circle around the prison. The Honduran Congress definitely shouldn’t have specified a technical solution to what recognizably is a problem for their desired management of the prison population. But they did, and they chose the worst possible solution for the Honduran populace that lives near the prisons.

It probably bears emphasis that in Honduras, prisons are often located in densely populated areas surrounded by housing. The residents of these cities and towns living within one kilometer of the prisons targeted are suffering because their cell phones don’t work, either. That means no emergency service calls for medical help, no fire protection, no calling the police to report a crime in progress… (source)

‘Dead’ Mobiles Spark Stir: Residents in Kalapet, Chinna Kalapet and Kanagachettikulam resorted to road blockades in four places on the East Coast Road on Monday, to protest the disconnection of cell phone towers in the vicinity of Puducherry Central prison at Kalapet. The traffic on the route was crippled for more than two hours.

The district magistrate had disconnected the towers, to stave off the use of cell phones by prison inmates, to perpetrate crimes, posing a great deal of inconvenience to the residents. However, the intervention by Revenue and Police led to the withdrawal of the road blockade.

The District Magistrate had initiated the action after the Governor himself visited the jail and raised safety issues. Taking advantage of the proximity of mobile towers, the jammers inside the central jail were rendered ineffective and the inmates of the jail made calls at ease… (source)

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State-wide Network Smuggles Prison Cell Phones

A state-wide network of Georgia ex-cons smuggled contraband cell phones into prisons on demand and at $300 per cell phone. Drugs were also smuggled into the Georgia DOC facilities.

State, area and local investigators have uncovered a trail of cell phones, marijuana and tobacco that led straight to state prisons.

Several people were arrested here and in Colquitt County in connection with the operation. At least one other arrest is expected in Thomas County.

The statewide investigation showed a prisoner would request the contraband and tell the suspects where to leave the items.

The activity involved a vast network of co-conspirators outside the prisons.

The contraband would be left away from the prisons, said Kevin Lee, commander of the Thomas County/Thomasville Narcotics/Vice Division.

“The location could be on a work detail,” Lee explained. “It could be anywhere.”

The Georgia Department of Corrections Investigation Unit participated in the probe. The state agency did not respond Thursday to a request for information.

In Thomas County, Henry Curtis Ansley III, also known as Bubba, 38, 708 Hunters Chase, is charged with criminal conspiracy and unlawful possession of Hydrocodone.

Ansley is a former state prison inmate, who served time with another person charged in the investigation.

Lee said investigators found various addresses in Ansley’s text messages that told where he was to leave prison contraband.

“An ounce of marijuana will go for $400 to $500 in prison,” the commander said. A cell phone costs an inmate about $300.

When he was arrested, Ansley had hydrocodone pills in a pocket, and officers found more of the narcotic pain killer at his residence.

A corrections officer at Colquitt County Correctional Institute is charged in the case.

Richard Dale Roberts, 43, 10 Wiregrass Circle, Moultrie, is charged with violation of oath of office, felony possession of marijuana, illegal use of a communications device and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Steve Exum, commander of the Colquitt County Drug Enforcement Team, said charges on Roberts stemmed from information received from the correctional institute warden about contraband being brought into the facility.

Exum said Roberts was attempting to deliver marijuana to the correctional institute.

“It was marijuana he has just purchased from an FBI task force officer,” Exum explained.

Also charged in the case are Billy Joe Bowling, 35, 161 Dogwood Lane, Thomasville; Marcos Lewis Brewer, 22, 775 Flintside Drive, Cobb; and Jason Curry Icard, 39, 310 Highway 240 South, Buena Vista.

Bowling and Brewer are on parole, said Cpl. Kim Young of the Colquitt County drug agency.

Ansley and Brewer were in the same prison at the same time, Young explained.

Bowling, Brewer and Icard, who are charged with felony marijuana possession, were traveling in a red Honda Civic that did not stop at a stop sign in Colquitt County. A deputy made a traffic stop.

The marijuana was thrown from the car’s sunroof, Young said, adding that the contraband being tossed from the vehicle was recorded on video by a camera in the deputy’s car.

Seized in the Colquitt County arrests were a large quantity of cell phones and chargers and 90 bags of loose-leaf tobacco.

“They admitted to the intent of dropping the contraband at several state prisons, and they had several times prior,” Young said.


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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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Smuggled Cell Phones A Prisoner’s Most Dangerous Weapon

This article is a discussion of the problem of contraband cell phones in Ohio prisons. Same issues as everywhere else with the same lack of solutions. However, a secure cell phone service is a solution to the contraband prison cell phone problem. With meshDETECT, the demand for illegal wireless devices is reduced, thereby reducing the contraband value of smuggled cell phones for those who supply them. That means less reward for the same risk and eventually supply will be minimized.

California prison officials have twice caught Charles Manson — the cult leader who masterminded a 1960s murder rampage — with a smuggled mobile phone after he chatted with folks across the country.

In Texas, prison officials seized a smuggled phone after a death row inmate called a state senator looking for help with his appeal.

And in South Carolina, after a prison official was ambushed at his home and nearly killed, authorities determined prisoners used a smuggled phone to organize the attack.

Smartphones, cellphones and other mobile devices are the most dangerous tools in prison, and officials haven’t found a way to keep them out, said Martin Horn, a former commissioner of New York City’s corrections department who now teaches at John Jay College.

“The purpose of imprisonment is to separate criminals from society, and these phones wipe that away,” Horn said. “You can access anything on the Internet, and that presents an enormous and growing challenge.”

In the first four months of 2010, Federal Bureau of Prisons workers confiscated 1,188 cellphones. Many state prisons also were overwhelmed. Guards in California’s prisons, for example, seized more than 8,500 smuggled phones in 2010.

That dwarfs Ohio’s numbers — about 100 phones seized in prison last year — but the trend is picking up here. Between January and May, Ohio authorities reported seizing about 100 phones, said Vinko Kucinic, the chief security threat investigator at the Ohio Department of Corrections.

How do the phones — considered contraband — make it inside?

• Friends or family of inmates stuff phones inside footballs and hike the balls over fences into prison yards for inmates to pick up.

•Visitors hide the phones in diapers a baby is wearing or in a body cavity.

•Corrupt prison guards bring them in, including a California guard who told state investigators he made more than $100,000 in one year from smuggling phones.

For guards, it’s a low-risk, high-profit venture, Horn said.

Smuggling cocaine or heroin to inmates is dangerous because if you’re caught — on or off prison grounds — you’re breaking the law.

But carrying a phone isn’t illegal to start with. And if a guard leaves a phone on a windowsill and an inmate picks it up, it’s often difficult for prison authorities to prove smuggling, Horn said.

Inmates often pay from $300 to $1,500 for a smuggled phone, Horn and other prison security experts say.

In Ohio prisons, inmates hide phones in hollowed-out books or secret compartments in their cells. They also hide shared phones in public spaces where inmates gather, Kucinic said.

How Dimorio McDowell — the federal inmate who ran an organized retail theft operation in Northeast Ohio from his New Jersey prison cell — received his phones or how he hid them from guards is unclear.

Prison officials at Fort Dix declined to answer questions, saying details could compromise security.

Many prison officials say it’s impossible to keep phones away from the 2 million inmates in the U.S. The solution, some have suggested, is to jam phone signals in prisons, making the phones useless.

But the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry says that would be illegal under the Federal Communications Act of 1934 — which prohibits blocking signals.

Mississippi found a compromise — managed access. A computer network there tracks all calls and texts coming in and going out of prisons.

If someone tries to use an unauthorized phone, calls and texts are blocked. In the first six months, the system blocked nearly 650,000 calls at one prison.

But managed access has its drawbacks, Horn cautioned. It’s expensive and, eventually, it will be hacked.

“Just because you’re a prison inmate doesn’t mean you’re stupid,” Horn said. “They’ll figure out a way to get around it.”


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Former Correctional Officer Stirs Up Ethical Questions At DC Jail

Another article about the corrupting influence of contraband such as cell phones on guards in prison. Interestingly, this guard, “charged $200 to get drugs into the jail, $200 for a carton of cigarettes and $250 for a cell phone.” Is the ability to communicate with loved ones while in jail more valuable to prisoners than drugs or cigarettes?

On Monday a former District of Columbia Department of Corrections officer pleaded guilty to charges of accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling contraband into the jail for inmates.

Twenty-three year old Ryan Motley could receive as much as twelve years in prison for his role in bringing in cell phones and marijuana. Residents of the D.C. Jail, located on the southeast side of Capitol Hill, are not allowed to have cell phones in their possession, and marijuana is also illegal. Local prosecutors said he admitted to bringing in at least 10 cell phones and an undisclosed amount of marijuana into the jail. In return, Motley received an estimated $1,800.

Motley was stopped in November 2010, as he was entering the jail through a staff entrance. His operations began to unravel when a co-worker questioned him after discovering two cell phones in his protective vest.

A female returning citizen, Laura Norris, said, “When I was in the D.C. years ago, it didn’t feel any different than being out on the streets. Some of the people locked up had everything.” Norris said she recalled seeing cigarettes, marijuana, and other illegal items during her time there ten years ago. “I never did federal time, but I was sentenced to the D.C. Jail time.”

Smuggling items into the detention center has long been a problem. A guard, who wish to be unidentified, said, “We have a big problem with people bringing stuff into the jail. People are always looking for a way to make extra money. The biggest scheme I can think of in my career here was with Marshall and Adams, back in ‘07”

The guard is referring to D.C. corrections officers Dana Marshall, 52, and Sheri Adams, 30, who were arrested as part of a scheme that involved multiple jail officials and as many as thirty inmates. An unnamed inmate and undercover agent alleged that food, drugs, electronic devices (iPods and MP3 players), cell phones, and weapons have been illegally brought in by these two women. They were charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

The unidentified guard said that Marshall, who was stationed in the culinary department, where he could in a special diet tray and have an inmate assigned to the kitchen detail deliver the tray to another inmate. Adams acted as the “middle man,” authorities said. She met with the inmate’s contact outside the D.C. Jail to take the orders and money.

Adams charged $200 to get drugs into the jail, $200 for a carton of cigarettes and $250 for a cell phone. She brought the contraband to Marshall, who would smuggle in the goods.

A Washingtonian who was incarcerated at the jail for six months said, “I was there for half a year and saw a lot of stuff. I saw people listening to their iPods and even people talking on cell phones in their cells. All of these cats [guards] are doing it. The act isn’t going to end any time soon.”

David Carson, a DC resident who lives in the Potomac Gardens neighborhood, remarked, “It disturbs me that just blocks away this kind of stuff is going on. I thought the job or a corrections officer is to keep inmates safe while they are going through the court process. It only goes to show that correctional officers aren’t any different than the people they are sworn to oversee. To some that wear the badge, it doesn’t mean anything.”


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Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Called ‘Out Of Control’

This article on California’s contraband prison cell phone problem speaks for itself…But a key statement is, “Both prison officials and inmates we spoke with agreed that a large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones.” A secure prison cell phone service will reduce the contraband value of smuggled cell phones and allow detainees to keep in contact with loved ones.

The smuggling of cell phones into California’s state prisons has exploded since KCRA 3 first documented this story a year ago.

“We know the problem is out of control,” State Sen. Alex Padilla said.

In 2007, nearly 1,400 cell phones were seized, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In 2010, the number of contraband cell phones discovered had exploded to 10,761, according to the CDCR.

CDCR spokesperson Paul Verke said that better detection, including the use of specially trained dog teams, has played a role in the increasing numbers.

However, one inmate told KCRA 3 that prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in on smuggled phones that can fetch between $200 to $800.

“The staff are bringing them in,” Dwight Debose said.

“It happens, but it is very rare. We’re talking four to five staff a year that we discover and dismiss as a result of their actions,” said Folsom Prison Warden Rick Hill.

Both prison officials and inmates we spoke with agreed that a large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones. But, there have been documented cases of escape attempts, drug deals and conference calls coordinated via smuggled cell phones, according to CDCR sources.

“The potential is there for the worst kind of activity,” Hill said.

One of the problems is that it is not illegal for someone to smuggle a cell phone into a state prison, said Padilla. Because of that fact, he believes the potential profit of black market phones is worth risking termination of employment. Because of that he has proposed making such smuggling illegal in hopes of stopping the continued rise of contraband cell phones in prison.

“If you are caught smuggling a cell phone into prison, you’re going to serve time too. Or, certainly pay a steep, steep fine,” added Padilla.


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R.I. Bans Cell Phones In Prison Cells

A new law has been passed to ban cell phones in prison cells in Rhode Island.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Michael J. McCaffrey and Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. sponsored the bill that makes it illegal for prisoners to possess “any portable electronic communication device.”

Under the new law, inmates caught using a cell phone can be punished by a $5,000 fine, a maximum penalty of five more years added on to their prison sentence, or even both.

However, it’s not currently illegal to possess a cell phone at the ACI, but inmates caught with one could face losing their good behavior credits, which would potentially extend an inmate’s sentence.

The Department of Corrections lobbied for the law, saying that it would increase safety and security at the ACI.

“This new law will prevent inmates in prison from directing crimes behind bars,” said Rep. Johnston (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket).

By creating and implementing the new law, the Department of Corrections is hoping to deter illegal activity from taking place while inmates are still behind bars.

“A prisoner should not have access to any type of cell phone or wireless device for the safety of fellow prisoners, corrections officials and individuals affiliated with the inmate outside of the prison walls,” said Senator McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).


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Cell Phones in Prison

A report on the problems of contraband cell phones in Ohio prisons:


The Ohio Department of Corrections is reviewing how best to cope with a problem that is growing nationwide: Prisoners gaining access to cellphones.

“They can be used to plan escapes,” says Vinko Kucinic, the department’s investigations coordinator. “They can be used to intimidate witnesses, as well as victims.”

An I-Team review of prison records shows that the department has seized 225 cellphones in the past three years. 124 of those seizures came just last year alone.

The problem is so widespread that even convicted serial killer Charles Manson has been caught rambling on a cellphone from inside his California prison.

Officials worry that besides intimidating people, the phones can be used to help drug lords and gang members continue to run their businesses even from behind bars.

Some states have gone so far as to install multi-million dollar electronic “shields” over prisons. They block all cellphone traffic except from authorized numbers.

Cash-strapped Ohio is looking at less expensive methods.

“Some states have dogs that sniff out cellphones,” Kucinic says. “There are systems out there, and there are softwares out there.”

The state now has set up a task force to examine practices nationwide to look at which ones are most effective in keeping cellphones out of the hands of inmates.

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Going High-Tech To Eliminate Prison Cell Phones

The dark gray device used to detect cell phones looks like an oversized walkie-talkie.

When Scott Schober, president of a Metuchen technology company, flipped it on in an officer cafeteria at a New Jersey jail several months ago, a warning immediately flashed.

“I turned around and walked out and said, ‘You’ve got phones in there,”‘ he said, describing the demonstration he gave for officials. “They basically said, ‘We’re not surprised.”‘

Cell phones are illegal in jails and prisons, and officers are supposed to be on the front lines of keeping them out. For Schober, the incident highlighted the pervasive nature of a problem that has dogged prison officials here and around the country.

State and county corrections officials in New Jersey are quietly testing new technology as they step up efforts to stem the tide of illegal phones behind bars. Department of Corrections Commissioner Gary Lanigan said an internal committee is examining whether to invest in detection equipment, along with recommending ways to improve security.

Law enforcement officials say phones can be as dangerous as weapons and allow inmates to continue terrorizing neighborhoods long after they’ve been locked up. Prisoners with cell phones have directed gang activity. They have intimidated witnesses. One inmate at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton allegedly ordered, over a cell phone, the murder of an ex-girlfriend who testified during his trial.
But despite security upgrades and increased penalties for having phones in prison, there are signs the problem is getting worse in New Jersey.

Inmates are making fewer calls on prison land lines, which can be monitored by officers. Meanwhile, the number of phones found in prisons has increased 50 percent over the last year. The most phones, 190 of 259 this year, were in Northern State Prison in Newark, one of the state’s most secure facilities.

“There are routinely finds of cell phones that you don’t hear about,” Lanigan said. “Searches have been enhanced. They just have to be enhanced more.”

With phones costing $500 on the prison black market, some officers have allegedly sought a cut of the action.

On Sept. 23, authorities announced the indictment of former corrections officer Luis Roman, saying he circumvented security by stashing phones and drugs under his protective vest or in his boots, then used a network of inmates to distribute them inside the prison.

Lanigan said officers can make $40,000 a year smuggling contraband into prisons, calling it an “inducement” for corruption.

“I can’t stand here and say we don’t have corrupt employees,” he said.

Jim McGonigal, president of the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association, which represents corrections sergeants, said pursuing high-profile cases against officers helps deter future corruption.

“We have to send a message to the staff: If you do something stupid like this, there’s going to be consequences,” he said. “I don’t mean taking away your pension. I mean serious jail time.”

Corrections started tracking phone seizures separately in August 2008. Over the next year, 266 phones were found in prisons, according to officials. Then, from August 2009 to July 2010, 339 phones were found, a 50 percent increase.
Corrections spokeswoman Deirdre Fedkenheuer said more seizures are the result of more searches.

“The searches will continue to be vigorous and frequent, the prosecutions for corrupted staff, visitors and inmates will go on, and we are not ruling anything out in our pursuit to rid the prisons of cell phones,” she said.

Lanigan says the ultimate solution is to legalize jamming cell phone signals in prisons, now banned by the Federal Communications Commission. He is one of many prison officials across the country who, along with elected leaders including Gov. Chris Christie, are pushing a bill in Congress to change that.

The bill has already cleared the U.S. Senate, but the version in the House of Representatives is still in committee.

A group advocating for cell phone companies has opposed the bill, and companies that sell alternate technologies criticize jamming as clumsy and raise concerns it could block legitimate communication near the prison.

Some prison systems have implemented other measures.

Mississippi recently became the first state to install antennas that intercept cell phone communications within a prison. When someone tries to send a text message or make a call, the antenna catches the signal and checks a database to see if it came from a registered number.

Authorized calls are rerouted to commercial carriers, while unauthorized calls are stopped. In one month, the state blocked 216,320 communication attempts, Mississippi officials said.

Fedkenheuer said the technology may not be the right fit for New Jersey because there’s no need to allow authorized calls all cell phones are banned from state prisons.

There are other methods to detect and locate phones in prisons. For example, New Jersey was the first state to train dogs to hunt phones.

Others, like Schober’s company, are pushing high-tech options. Schober said his handheld devices can detect the signals cell phones send when turned on or transmitting data. A directional antenna helps locate the phone. He said his company has sold about two dozen devices in New Jersey, but won’t say who bought them.

Lanigan believes jamming prison phones is the future. It’s the best way, he is fond of saying, to turn a cell phone into a “4-ounce piece of garbage.”


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