Tag Archives: phone call

Prisons Seek Ally In Crackdown On Cellphones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Like it? Share it! facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Ky. Man Faces 600 Charges For Calls From Jail

Its not just smuggled cell phones in prisons that can cause problems. This case shows how even approved telecommunications services in prisons can be used for inappropriate purposes.

A central Kentucky man faces 600 criminal counts charging he made phone calls from his jail cell to a girl younger than 16 who he is accused of raping.

A district judge on Wednesday sent the commonwealth’s case against 29-year-old Steven Smith to a Madison County grand jury.

Court records show Smith was charged on July 26 with prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor in a sex offense.

Madison County Detention Center Maj. Faye Winkler told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Smith allegedly used a phone card bought through the jail commissary to make the calls.

Valetta Browne, who was appointed to defend Smith in the rape case, was in court Thursday morning and did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Berea Police Department Sgt. Detective Lee Ann Boyle said the calls were made from Sept. 1 to July 14 and were recorded. Boyle said she obtained a log containing a record of each call.

Smith has an Aug. 22 trial date in Madison Circuit Court on the rape charge. The indictment last year says he also faces other charges including intimidating a witness for allegedly threatening the girl and her family “with bodily harm or death if they aided law enforcement in his prosecution.”

Court records show he also faced charges of terroristic threatening, being a persistent felony offender for second-degree escape in Fayette County and receiving stolen property and theft in Jefferson County.

Smith rejected a plea agreement last year on the charges because he objected to the description of the terroristic-threatening charge, which would have been dismissed along the persistent felony offender charge.

All charges were later reinstated.

Smith is lodged in the Madison County jail. His next court date in the rape case is Aug. 11.


Like it? Share it! facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Inmates Cash In Big On Jail’s Phone Glitch

Larry Stone made a phone call from the Lake County Jail that would typically cost about $20, but it didn’t go through.

The charge was supposed to be refunded to his inmate account. But, the 32-year-old checked his balance and discovered his account now had more money than before the call. He made another call and hung up to test his luck. Again, more money magically appeared.

He repeated the exercise 77 times, exploiting the glitch that was mistakenly depositing credit into inmate trust accounts for each incomplete phone call.

After four hours of dialing a combination of local, long-distance and international numbers, Stone had accumulated more than $1,250 — enough money to bond out of jail, according to a Sheriff’s Office investigative report.

Stone, who was arrested in April on property-crime charges, walked out of the Tavares facility earlier this month with $50. But he wasn’t free for long.

News of the bug floated to other inmates, who began to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone.

Global Tel*Link — the company that provides the jail’s inmate phone system — charges the cost of a call from inmate trust accounts at a rate of $2.58 for local calls, $13.85 for long distance and $23.68 for international calls.

If no one answers or the caller hangs up, the money is returned to the account, officials said.

But in early July something bizarre happened. The system was reimbursing inmates twice for incomplete calls — allowing them to make a profit.

Stone took advantage of the malfunction and dialed a Canadian number dozens of times, investigators said.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. John Herrell said scammers reaped immediate gains from the ruse because inmates can check their balances on the phone.

The jail’s technology department noticed a high volume of incomplete calls and alerted detention deputies.

Inmate Kevin Tomlinson was in the middle of paying his $1,400 bond when investigators caught up with him. He had used the malfunctioning system to his advantage, investigators said, accumulating hundreds of dollars in the process.

Tomlinson told detectives he learned about the system’s bug on his own and didn’t tell anyone else.

Nevertheless, the glitch affected about 256 jail inmate accounts and lasted 24 hours, Herrell said.

Detectives have not calculated the total amount that was inappropriately refunded, he said.

The software error has since been fixed and accounts restored to their pre-glitch totals, officials said.

“In most cases, physical money was not actually received; it was mainly credits and debits on paper,” Herrell said. “Some inmates were transferred to other facilities after working the scam and were given checks for the amounts they had obtained in their accounts; however, all such checks were quickly recovered.”

Herrell attributed the glitch solely to the company.

Global Tel*Link executive director Dorothy Cukier said the “erroneous credits” were caused by human error not software failures.

“The software, which was already properly running in the background, was inadvertently started a second time by someone with access to the system,” Cukier said. “Following this incident, GTL made changes to the system to prevent the duplicate operation of this software program in the future.”

Herrell said the jail has used the system since 2006 and never had a problem. Now that the contract with the company is set to expire, the Sheriff’s Office said it could explore other options.

Just a few hours after his release, Stone turned himself in to authorities, saying he knew they were looking for him.

Now Stone is facing additional charges of scheming with intent to defraud and grand theft. He declined an interview request from the Orlando Sentinel. An investigation is ongoing, and additional inmates may be charged.

“We discovered it early on and took swift action to locate Stone and take him back into custody after his bond was revoked,” Herrell said.


Like it? Share it! facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Prisons Can’t Stop Cell Phones From Reaching Cell Walls

A story about the improper use of contraband cell phones in Texas prisons. A death row inmate paid $2100 for the phone. Fourteen death row inmates were found with contraband prison cell phones.

Texas State Senator John Whitmire calls it the most unusual phone call of his life. “Nothing shocks me anymore, but this would probably take first prize for the biggest, unbelievable story,” said the Senator from Houston. “No Texan should have to worry about getting a call from an inmate.”

In fact, Whitmire received several calls in October, 2008.

“He said ‘I’m here on death row. I’m an inmate,’” recalls Whitmire, who then asked the inmate how he got hold of a phone. “He said ‘I bought it for $2100.’”

The Democratic Senator says the calls came from death row inmate Richard Tabler. Before long, Tabler was revealing personal information about Whitmire’s daughters. “He was making references to my family as he was asking me for assistance. Law enforcement said that was to put me on notice.”

Whitmire alerted the authorities and Tabler’s cell phone was confiscated. But it didn’t end there. Death row inmate Licho Escamillia says the entire unit was searched. “They had a special team come down and conducted searches in our cells,” Escamillia said from his prison unit in Livingston.

Texas prison officials found cell phones on 14 death row inmates, including Escamillia. “They found it in the side of the wall. They found some chips on the wall and they broke it down and they pull the phone out.”

The man convicted of killing Dallas police officer Christopher James claims he had no idea the phone was hidden in his cell wall.

In 2010 791 cell phones were taken away from Texas prisoners. So far in 2011, about 260 have been confiscated.

“One is too many,” said Michelle Lyons from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “It’s a felony to possess a cell phone within a prison and obviously a lot of damage can be done with a cell phone.”

Inmates can use cell phones to run drugs, organize thefts and order hits on the outside world. Many phones are smuggled in inside cakes, shoes and body cavities.

Senator Whitmire says the Texas Department of Criminal Justice needs to wake up.

“I’m always upset with the prison system, because I don’t think they go to zero tolerance and they don’t have the energy behind this issue until we have an incident.”

Whitmire points to inmate David Puckett, who recently used a cell phone to escape from a prison near Beaumont. The senator says it finally lit a fire under prison officials. But his frustration doesn’t end there. He says in 2007 the Texas Legislature gave $17 million to the Department of Criminal Justice to improve security.

The TDCJ says it has spent $7.6 million of that money for the purchase of surveillance cameras, scanning equipment, metal detectors and internal body scanners. Whitmire wants to know why the rest hasn’t been spent. “I do not think it’s a high enough priority,” said the senator.

The one course of action both Whitmire and prison officials can agree on is the jamming of cell phones in Texas prisons.

“Ultimately, we would love to have the ability to use jamming technology,” said Lyons. “If you can’t use the phones inside the facility, then certainly it’s going to cut down on inmates even trying to get a phone in.”

However, FCC law prevents cell phone jamming anywhere. Senator Whitmire says the law needs to be updated.

“Let me tell you what I would do if I was running this place by myself,” Whitmire said with a sense for frustration. “I would jam them anyway and I would just see what the federal government did.”

But for now, that’s not an option. However, Texas prison officials are looking at other technology that would help them pinpoint where a phone signal is originating from within a prison.


Like it? Share it! facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail