Tag Archives: meshDETECT

Skate To Where The Puck Is Going To Be

prison technology innovation meshDETECT 300x300 Skate To Where The Puck Is Going To BeInnovation, especially technology innovation, requires a willingness to challenge accepted approaches to problems as well as entrenched industry “truths”. This nontraditional thinking is best captured by a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Back in June of 2011, we issued a press release announcing the introduction of the meshDETECT Secure Prison Cell Phone Solution. In the press release we said, “The meshDETECT™ secure cell phone platform devalues the contraband value of the smuggled prison cell phone and immediately creates a safer, more secure, and controllable environment for both corrections officials and detainees.” Since then we have written extensively about why contraband cell phones are a problem of both supply and demand. And about how enhanced access to telecommunications services has the proven, significant, additional benefits of reducing recidivism, improving detainee behavior and increasing officer safety.

This was not the conventional view on solving the significant and growing problem of contraband cellphones in prison at the time. In fact, many in the industry thought we were crazy for proposing giving detainees a “cell phone”.

However, according to the August 2014 issue of eTechbeat, an online magazine published by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC); the Indiana Department of Correction is now allowing inmates in two of their facilities to use cordless phones in their cells in an effort to stem recidivism and contraband cellphones and encourage better behavior while incarcerated.

In the article, INDOC Deputy Commissioner James Basinger is quoted saying, “Inmates are allowed to walk around with the phones and take them to their cells to have a phone conversation out of hearing from other inmates, which could lessen inmates’ desire for cellphones. Although inmates use contraband cellphones for criminal activity, not all inmates want them for that purpose. I think it’s a way to combat the contraband cellphone problem. In my opinion, part of the interest in cell phones is you can talk to family and friends in a private setting and are not standing up at the wall with other inmates. We want to encourage communication. Inmates with more contact with family and friends may behave better. It’s all about improving communication . It seems like a good way to improve their reintegration. If they keep connected to the family it might make them stay out of prison when they get out. We are trying to get them out and to be productive.”

Sound familiar?

Cordless phones are not a scalable or cost effective solution, but we believe this is yet another data point proving what we have been preaching. Innovation can be a lonely skate, but eventually you get to the puck.

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New Technologies In Prison

FCC workshop meshDETECT 300x200 New Technologies In PrisonToday I participated in the FCC’s Workshop on Inmate Calling Services Reform on the New Technologies panel to consider new and emerging forms of communications in correctional settings beyond the traditional wireline telephone call. Below is the text of my opening statement:

As this workshop is focused on inmate calling services and this panel is specifically targeted to new technologies, I would like to focus my opening comments on a new solution to the problem of contraband cell phones in prison that also provides enhanced telephone access to detainees and their families.

The very first payphone was installed in a Hartford, Connecticut bank in 1889; the first payphone in a jail was probably installed not too long after. Ironically, this same device, admittedly with very sophisticated back end controls, is still being used in prisons and jails around the world 125 years later; yet when is the last time you personally used a payphone? The reason for this? Cell phones.

As many of you maybe aware, contraband cell phones are a significant issue in prisons and jails across the county, and indeed the world. Over 15,000 were confiscated in California alone in 2012. In fact, Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens has stated that, “Illegal cell-phone use in Georgia prisons has developed to “epidemic” proportions and is now the system’s greatest safety threat.”

There is no doubt that the use of unrestricted cell phones in prison is a serious security risk in that some of the use is for criminal activity, however it has been shown that the vast majority of contraband cell phone use is by detainees seeking more frequent and affordable interaction with family and loved ones. Interaction that is now severely restricted by the limited number and shared use of prison payphones.

We believe that contraband cell phones are a problem of both supply and demand. Due to the demand for cell phones in prison, there is an active and highly lucrative pipeline of supply. Most prison administrations have focused on restricting the supply of contraband cell phones through detection, jamming and search. However, like the problem of drug smuggling, without addressing the demand for contraband, the problem will never be solved.

We have developed a solution, called meshDETECT, which helps to reduce the demand for contraband cell phones by siphoning off the legitimate desire for more frequent telephone access between detainees and their loved ones. meshDETECT is a secure prison cell phone solution that gives detainees highly customized cell phones with all the security and control features of prison payphones. This allows those detainees whose only desire is for legitimate, non-criminal contact with family to use wireless technology safely and securely.

By siphoning off and co-opting this non-criminal wireless usage, we significantly reduce the overall demand for contraband cell phones and therefore the profitability for those smuggling these devices. Less financial reward for cell phone smugglers changes the risk/reward equation and makes it much less appealing given the high personal and professional risk for those caught smuggling.

In addition to reducing the demand for, and therefore the supply of, contraband cell phones, enhanced access to telecommunications services has the proven, significant, additional benefits of reducing recidivism, improving detainee behavior and increasing officer safety.

Eventually all technology trends breach the prison walls. In fact, the Department of Justice recently mandated that Federal Bureau of Prison Halfway House detainees be given controlled access to cell phones to facilitate communication with potential employers and family. With meshDETECT, all deserving detainees can benefit from wireless technology, safely and securely.

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Managed Access Jamming Too Expensive Says MoJ, Investigates Demand For Contraband Cell Phones

managed access too expensive 300x193 Managed Access Jamming Too Expensive Says MoJ, Investigates Demand For Contraband Cell PhonesThe United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice has determined that managed access jamming of contraband cell phones is too expensive and has commissioned “research to explore the use and demand for illicit mobile phones amongst the prison population” in order to facilitate the “development of a new mobile phone strategy to:

 

(i) manage prisoner communications,

(ii) reduce and control criminal activities and

(iii) reduce expenditure on equipment and the need for time-consuming searches.”

The aim of the study is:

1. To further the understanding of what drives the demand for illicit mobile phones by prisoners; and

2. To help identify potential effective ways of preventing their usage (excluding prohibitively expensive solutions such as mobile phone blockers).

To guide the analysis, the key research questions to be explored are:

• What drives the demand for mobile phones within prisons? How much is for maintaining family conduct and how much is for other more criminal purposes (including criminal networks, gangs, terrorism)?

• Are certain types of prisoners more likely to want a mobile phone and so drive demand in particular establishments?

• Which non-technical factors could be most effective (and cost effective) in reducing both the supply and demand for mobile phones in prison (including ways of counteracting the prison economy that surrounds the use of mobile phones)?

Maryland as an example

Let’s look at Maryland as an example of the managed access cost concerns prisons around the world must wrestle with when considering jamming technology. Last year, the Maryland State legislature formed a Special Joint Commission on Public Safety and Security in State and Local Correctional Facilities. Formed in response to the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center, where a joint federal-state investigation revealed a virtual takeover of the facility by violent inmate gang members and corrupt correctional officers, the commission recently released its recommendations.

Included in this report is the recommendation is to expand the funding for managed access jammers at six additional prison facilities beyond the two sites (MTC and BCDC) where it has already been installed. Per the report, the jamming costs for these two existing sites are $2 million annually at MTC and $3.9 million annually at BCDC.

According to the report, “The system appears to be very effective, as evidenced by the sight of inmates continuously lined up at payphones.” That’s some fact-based decision making right there!

If the cell phones in the prison were predominately used to plan crimes by avoiding the monitoring/recording of calls at the prison payphones (the reasons given to justify the multi-million dollar annual expenditures), why would prison payphone demand increase once the contraband mobile phones were being jammed? Perhaps because the predominant use of the now blocked mobile phones is not to run gangs, but rather to speak to loved ones?

We have long advocated the strategy of looking at the problem of contraband cell phones as a problem of supply AND demand. We believe however that the problem of demand for smuggled mobile phones in jail goes beyond long-term offenders looking to continue their drug or crime operations, witness intimidation and the avoidance of high call prices.

Contraband cell phone demand is also driven by a desire for more frequent family communication and more privacy (not secrecy) and as such, any comprehensive solution should address both sides of the equation – supply and demand.

Providing prisoners with a controlled and secure prison cell phone, such as the meshDETECT solution, will siphon off the predominant use of the contraband phones – communication with loved ones. Combined with a measured and cost effective supply-side strategy, this demand-side approach will lower the value of the contraband wireless phones and therefore the money that can be made smuggling them into prison, eliminate wireless airtime as prison currency and reduce recidivism by enhancing family connections.

The challenges prison budgets face in today’s economic environment necessitate such a comprehensive approach. We are pleased to see that, in Britain at least, this strategy is being seriously considered.

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The Risks Of WiFi Deployment In Prisons

prison wifi risks 300x187 The Risks Of WiFi Deployment In PrisonsWith Global Tel*Link all but announcing at the recent Corrections Technology Association Annual Meeting its intention to offer mobile services in prisons, now may be the time to consider the best technology architecture for such deployments for those prison administrators who see the potential benefits of a secure prison cell phone solution.

There are essentially two ways to provision wireless personal communication devices, such as prisoner tablets, in a prison environment. In its presentation, Global Tel*Link stated that it has chosen to deploy service using WiFi to provide wireless connectivity. We think there are some significant operational challenges and, more importantly, serious security risks in this approach.

Security Risks

There are two main security risks, as highlighted by the recent news articles below. The first is the potential for intentional hacking of the system, either internally by tech savvy prisoners, or externally by those determined to defeat the WiFi security controls in order to gain or grant unfettered access to Global Tel*Link services, connected prison systems (commissary and trust accounts, etc.) or the unfiltered internet. A very real challenge with the decision to deploy a prison WiFi network is external hackers “wardriving” the system from outside the prison facility in order to accomplish this.

The second risk is the unintentional granting of access to the internet due to incompetence, human error and service misconfiguration.

In either case, the deployment of a local access wireless network via WiFi means that a single security breach, password hack or incompetent admin may result in unsecured and unmonitored access to internal prison systems and the outside world for all devices on the network.

In contrast, meshDETECT uses the traditional telco mobile network to provide secure voice and media services. Any breach, should it occur, is limited to a single device. If a device is hacked, a risk Global Tel*Link will also have to manage, one detainee may benefit; but no one can hack AT&T, Verizon, etc. in such a way to give all the meshDETECT mobile devices deployed in a prison unfettered access to the internet, or unmonitored calls to harass outside parties and plan crimes.

Technology choices in the deployment of a secure prison mobile access network service must focus on security, not profitability.

Operational Challenges

Now lets look at the operational challenges associated with deploying WiFi within a prison facility:

  • Low powered – hand held devices maximum output is normally 0.4 Watt.
  • Signal can suffer interference from other devices such as two way radios used by staff.
  • Best when there is line of sight between transponders.
  • Does not penetrate solid mass – concrete, brick, metal – the less porous the material the shorter the range and the slower the speed. Prison construction is high density blocks and cell doors are often clad in metal with metal surrounds.
  • Tinted / reflective glass contains metal fragments resulting in drop in signal strength.
  • Security fencing can act as a Faraday cage and ground the signal.

It is clear that achieving adequate WiFi signal coverage and application data throughput at a reasonable cost of installation is a challenge in this unique environment. Ongoing equipment maintenance expense as well as repair cost due to vandalism must also be considered when looking at the total cost of this approach.

In contrast, as evidenced by the high number of contraband devices and continued use of smuggled cell phones in jails and prisons globally, cellular signal strength and coverage is typically more than adequate, with no onsite equipment required. Additionally, 4G LTE cellular may be much faster than a WiFI network with an undersized or overburdened connection to the Internet (designed for coverage versus designed for capacity).

Real World Examples

Military Cuts Guantanamo Bay WiFi After Alleged Threat by Anonymous

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp is losing all access to wireless internet and social networks due to hacking threats.

U.S. military officials have blocked access to wireless internet and social networks like Facebook and Twitter at Guantanamo Bay because it fears that international hacking group Anonymous will launch an attack to disrupt services at the naval base.

Anonymous launched a global online protest to mark the 100th day of the hunger strike by Guantanamo Bay prisoners. The detainees have been protesting their living conditions and indefinite detention at the base.

The U.S. military said it has been receiving online hacking threats amid the hunger strike, which were allegedly from Anonymous.

(Source)

Prisoners Accessed Internet Through Faulty Computer Kiosks

Prisoners in privately run Mt Eden Corrections Facility were able to access the internet through faulty computer kiosks a security review of public sector computer systems has found.

The security breach was one of 12 “weak points” identified in Government Chief Information Officer Colin McDonald’s review of the security of 215 publicly accessible state sector agency IT systems released this morning.

Serco, the company which operates Mt Eden said that on November 26 last year, “an administrative error made it possible to open a web browser session” on kiosks provided to prisoners to allow them to “take responsibility for organizing their day-to-day lives and helps to develop literacy and numeracy skills”.

Serco’s Director of Operations Scott McNairn said the error “allowed for limited access to the internet, policed by a web filter which blocked access to inappropriate sites”.

“No email, social media or adult sites were accessed.”

The internet access was “limited” and “at no time was it possible to access any other systems or information”.

Serco has not said how long prisoners were able to access the internet for.

Mr McNairn said the company had improved security for the kiosks and was “confident” that the likelihood of further problems was “extremely low”.

(Source)

Jailed Hacker Hacks Prison Network

It’s almost comical, but an incarcerated hacker has hacked into his prison’s computer network.

According to Naked Security (Sophos), Nicholas Webber, who operated the GhostMarket.Net cybercrime website, signed-up for the prison’s IT class. Webber, who was 18 at the time of his arrest for bank frauds and identity theft scams, apparently go onto the network but was unable to access personal information files.

The prison issued a statement to the Register: “At the time of this incident in 2011 the educational computer system at HMP Isis was a closed network. No access to personal information or wider access to the internet or other prison systems would have been possible.”

The incident, which occurred in 2011, only came to light because of a wrongful termination suit by the instructor leading the class.

(Source)

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Mobility In Corrections

GTL copies meshDETECT Mobility In CorrectionsWe post this summary of Global Tel*Link’s upcoming presentation “Mobility In Corrections” at the Corrections Technology Association (CTA) 2013 Annual Technology Summit, without comment…

It is a question of when, not if, are secure mobile phones and/or tablets are used by inmates in a correctional setting. There are natural applications for the use of secure mobile phones include; telephone calls, video calls, music and email using the embedded capabilities of today’s mobile phones. Additional applications could include secure text messaging. What if tablets were introduced to inmates? The potential for positive use is greatly enhanced when considering education and training curriculum is downloaded to the tablet. Administrative functionality such as commissary ordering or kites is also within the realm of possibilities.

Clearly, technology is available to integrate all of these applications and more on today’s mobile phones and tablets. The larger question, though, is what are the security and policy implications from introducing mobility in corrections? Could the phones be used as weapons, trade and/or commerce? Are all inmates eligible to use a mobile phone or just select inmates? Are inmates required to purchase a mobile phone or tablet or are they provided at no cost to the inmate? What are the infrastructure requirements for supporting mobile phones such as power outlets for recharging? What types of batteries are required so as not to thwart drug sniffing dogs? Are there additional revenue generating opportunities for correctional facilities such as a limited selection of downloadable movies the inmates may rent? How do these offerings co-exist in an environment where contraband cell phones are not permitted?

A workshop to openly discuss the questions above and many more is the purpose of this overview and discussion. Technology, however, cannot function alone without well thought out policy and guidelines. The potential exists to enable the simultaneous missions of incarceration, rehabilitation and reduced recidivism while ensuring the safety of staff, the inmates and the outside world. Through a successful partnership between corrections and the private sector, these challenges can be achieved.

Source (Page 20)

(For more information on this strategy, see our whitepaper “Reducing the Demand for Contraband Cell Phones in Correctional Facilities” which can be accessed by clicking on the download link to the right.)

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meshDETECT® Awarded Notice Of Allowance From The United States Patent And Trademark Office

meshDETECT registered logo jpg 300x261 meshDETECT® Awarded Notice Of Allowance From The United States Patent And Trademark OfficemeshDETECT® is pleased to announce that it has recently received a notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office for a patent application entitled, “System and method for controlling, monitoring and recording of wireless telecommunications services in penal institutions” covering its Secure Prison Cell Phone Solutions™. A notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office is a written notification that a patent application has cleared internal review and is pending issuance.

The application broadly covers systems and methods of providing incoming and outgoing telecommunications services to persons incarcerated in penal facilities. A plurality of controls is provided that may reduce contraband devices and encourage good behavior by detainees, penal employees, and others. Portable electronic devices, primarily mobile telephones, are provided to detainees that have exhibited acceptable behavior and are not determined to be security risks.

Contraband mobile telephones have become an increasing problem in prison facilities, further reducing prison facility inmate communications services earnings, compromising safety and presenting opportunities for prison employee corruption. While prison officials have taken steps to reduce contraband cell phones, the expanded capabilities of small portable devices have made such devices more valuable to detainees. This has increased economic incentives for penal employees to facilitate the smuggling and trafficking of these devices in prisons. With a contraband mobile device that has Internet access, a detainee may view telephone directories, maps and photographs for criminal purposes. Gang violence and drug trafficking are increasingly being managed online, allowing persons in penal facilities to continue engaging in criminal activity while incarcerated. Traditional solutions such as blocking or jamming cell phone signals have proven impractical.

meshDETECT® is a technology platform that can be offered in any prison interested in the smart deployment and management of secure prison cell phones – which promotes improved detainee behavior and increases officer safety. Best of all, there is no deployment cost. In fact, meshDETECT is a new source of revenue for prisons.

Prisons longer need to incur the expense and deployment challenges of wireless jamming technology, now that prison cell phone calls can now be monitored and recorded. Legitimate prison cell phone inventories can now replace contraband cell phones.

Update (7/2/13):
The meshDETECT patent (#8,478,234) was issued today by the United States Patent Office. You can view the patent here: meshDETECT Patent

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Control Contraband Cell Phones Without Investment

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

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

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Cellphones Don’t Belong In These Cells

prison cell cellphone 300x199 Cellphones Dont Belong In These CellsWe agree that unmonitored contraband cell phones don’t belong in prison cells, but we believe that a secure prison cell phone solution such as meshDETECT can not only reduce the demand for smuggled cell phones but also enhance safety, decrease recidivism and increase prison revenues.

Download our whitepaper “Reducing the Demand for Contraband Cell Phones in Correctional Facilities” to learn more.

Sarah Pender orchestrated her escape from Rockville Correctional Facility in 2008 using contraband cellphones and a network of accomplices.

Pender, who was featured as one of “America’s Most Wanted’s” Top Ten Fugitives before her capture, showed state prison officials the danger of prisoners using technology behind bars.

Todd Tappy, deputy chief of internal affairs in the Indiana Department of Correction, said cellphones rival weapons as a top threat to safety in Indiana’s prisons.

Prisoners have used cellphones to traffic drugs and tobacco, organize assaults, intimidate witnesses and victims, order people killed or coordinate escapes — as Pender did. Unlike calls made through the prison system, prison officials can’t monitor inmates’ cellphone calls.

“We have serious concerns about their introduction into any of our facilities,” said Traci Billingsley, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons.

More than 1,760 cellphones were confiscated from Indiana state prisons in 2010, Department of Correction data show. The Bureau of Prisons confiscated more than 3,600 cellphones nationwide last year from its federal prisons.

Illinois prison officials, on the other hand, confiscated only five cellphones in 2010, data provided by the Illinois Department of Corrections show.

Stacey Solano, communications manager for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said she couldn’t explain the difference. She said Illinois’ numbers might be so low because of officials’ vigilance in searching prisoners, staff and visitors.

“We do everything we can within our power to make sure cellphones and other contraband don’t make it into our facilities,” Solano said.

The proliferation of cellphones in prisons can have dire consequences.

In South Carolina, an off-duty prison official was shot six times in the chest and stomach last year in his home. He survived the attack, which was ordered by an inmate using a smuggled cellphone.

A New Jersey inmate used a contraband cellphone last year to order the slaying of his former girlfriend in retaliation for her initial cooperation in a police investigation about him.

In Tennessee, a Nashville police officer was shot in 2009 by a man who had escaped from a Mississippi prison with the help of a cellphone.

Tappy said Indiana prisoners buy cellphones for anywhere from $400 to more than $1,000 — depending on the difficulty of getting them into a facility.

Indiana prison officials search prisoners cells, use metal detectors and conduct more thorough searches of their own staff, contractors, visitors and prisoners. Tappy said Indiana also uses dogs trained specifically to sniff out wireless devices.

“It’s dangerous not only to the offenders but to the public,” Tappy said. “We have to do everything we can to keep (cellphones) out of our facilities.”

Source

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Borrowed Cellphone Slams Prison Cell Shut

parole revoked cell phone 300x277 Borrowed Cellphone Slams Prison Cell ShutThis 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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Cell Phone On Cellblock Means Trouble For Inmate

prison calls 300x199 Cell Phone On Cellblock Means Trouble For InmateEven 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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