Tag Archives: prison cell phone

Skate To Where The Puck Is Going To Be

prison-technology-innovation-meshDETECTInnovation, 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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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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To Fight Recidivism, DOJ Requires BOP To Offer Cell Phones To Prisoners

BOP-halfway-house-cell-phoneThe Justice Department will require Federal Bureau of Prison halfway houses to boost services for inmates prior to release. The new rules also instruct federal work release facilities to provide cell phone access in order to help inmates seek employment opportunities.

Once fully implemented, these services will be available to every single one of the approximately 30,000 inmates who are released through halfway houses each year.

Several other modifications are being made to the standard contracts that apply to federal halfway houses in order to provide greater support to returning citizens. Examples include requiring halfway houses to provide public transportation vouchers or transportation assistance to help residents secure employment, requiring all federal halfway houses to allow residents to have cell phones to facilitate communication with potential employers and family, and improving and expanding home confinement by increasing the use of GPS monitoring.

According to the new requirements, not just any cell phones will be allowed for use. Specifically the cell phones provided to halfway house prisoners must meet the following criteria:

  • Contractors managing the halfway houses must develop policy and procedures to monitor use of the devices.
  • The cell phone can be equipped with GPS to account for inmate location.
  • No resident-to-resident phone calls will be allowed.
  • Cell phones will be randomly searched, with all cell phones being searched at least monthly.
  • Cell phone photos inside the facility or on the facility property will be prohibited.

We applaud this move by the Justice Department to reduce recidivism and increase communication between prisoners and their families. We look forward to working with halfway house contractors who must develop and implement the policy and procedures that allow for the routine use and monitoring of cell phones. Per the new requirements, these procedures must be approved at the time of submission of the technical proposal, and any revisions must be approved by the RRM.

Fortunately, the meshDETECT Secure Prison Cell Phone Solution has the all the monitoring, forensic and security requirements contained in BOP RRC Statement of Work (SOW), plus many additional capabilities to insure halfway house detainees have access to all the benefits of wireless technology in a controlled and secure manner.

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Video Of K9 Search For Prison Cell Phones

Correctional officers find eight phones at the CDCR’s Norco facility – one of them was tucked in a shoe. It was originally hidden in a deodorant container in an attempt to throw off the dogs’ scent.

The canines are able to sniff through that. Inmates have tried to mask the scent of their phone with coffee, spices – even peanut butter – but the dogs keep finding their cell phones.

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Cell Phone Usage In Prisons Is Targeted

This article provides an update on contraband prison cell phone legislation in California. According to the article smuggled cell phone usage in state prisons has recently exploded. Nearly 11,000 cell phones were found in state prisons in 2010, compared to 261 in 2006. The phones can fetch up to $1,000 each in prison.

A bill aimed at curbing widespread cell phone proliferation in state prisons is on its way to the state Assembly after clearing the Senate.

Senate Bill 26 attempts to crack down on the smuggling of cell phones and other wireless communication devices into California prisons — such as California Institution for Men and California Institution for Women, both in Chino.

The bill — which was introduced by State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys — was approved 39 to 0 by the Senate last week.

The Assembly’s Public Safety Committee is expected to next hear the bill.

Under the proposed legislation, smuggling a cell phone into prison would bring a misdemeanor charge, which would be punishable by six months in jail, as well as a fine of up to $5,000 per phone.

Inmates who are found to be in possession of the devices would face a loss of time credits that could not be restored.

Local Republican lawmakers said the legislation should have carried a felony punishment for violators.

An earlier incarnation of the bill, Senate Bill 434, would have made the act of smuggling a felony, but the proposal was killed in committee over concerns that it would aggravate prison overcrowding, officials said.

“It’s very difficult to get liberal legislators to pass anything with a felony out of committee anymore,” said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, who sits on the Public Safety Committee. “With a misdemeanor, all it’s going to do is let people with six-month sentences out after a day or two because of overcrowding. I wish this was stronger.” Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Hesperia, said that while he supports S.B. 26, the legislation should have carried a felony charge for violators.

“You have shot callers ordering hits from inside, and there are a lot of guys continuing their criminal career,” Donnelly said. “I think it’s time to put a stop to it in the name of public safety and common sense.” Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Chino, said inmate overcrowding is preventing the bill from carrying a felony charge.

“We would all love to be more punitive, but with the issue of overcrowding, I think this is a good compromise, and I am supportive,” Torres said. “I represent the Chino prison. I’ve been there more times then I care to spend. This cell phone issue is a huge problem in our prison system, and (S.B. 26) is a good start to begin to address it.” Prison inmates have used smuggled cell phones to plan attacks, coordinate drug movement and sales, direct street gangs, communicate with other inmates and the public, videotape guard tactics as well as arrange escapes, officials said.

Cell phone usage in state prisons has recently exploded. Nearly 11,000 cell phones were found in state prisons in 2010, compared to 261 in 2006.

The phones can fetch up to $1,000 each in prison.

Under current law, smuggling cell phones into state prison does not carry criminal or financial sanctions, Padilla said.

S.B. 26 is Padilla’s fourth attempt to criminalize smuggling and possession of cell phones in prison.

Cult leader Charles Manson, who is doing time at Corcoran State Prison in Kings County, was twice caught in possession of a cell phone in the past two years.

“Criminals like Charles Manson, who had two cell phones, don’t deserve a friends and family plan,” Hagman said.


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240 Prisoner Cell Phones Confiscated in Five Months

Contraband prison cell phones in the Bahamas. It is a problem there, as it is globally.

Prison officials confiscated 240 cell phones from inmates at Her Majesty’s Prisons between January to May despite best efforts to block the use of the contraband material.

The Ministry of National Security plans to soon install a system to stop mobile phone signals without disrupting cellular service to surrounding neighbourhoods.

“The unauthorised use of cell phones within prisons continues to pose a serious challenge, and my ministry is determined to find a more effective means of curtailing their use. In this regard, we are seeking the installation of a cellular telephone jammer to selectively block the use of cell phones within the prison compound by persons who are unauthorized to make use of them,” said National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest, during his contribution to the budget debate yesterday.

The Mount Moriah MP also tabled the 2010 annual HMP report which noted that there were 2,374 admissions at HMP last year, a three per cent decrease from 2009 which saw 2,454 inmates admitted that year.

There were 1,625 remanded inmates – those not sentenced – while 749 had been sentenced, according to data provided in 2010 annual report.

The 2010 figures reveal that of the inmates admitted to the prison last year on murder charges only two had been sentenced for the crime while 104 were on remand.

Male inmates far outweighed the female prison population with 2,235 men incarcerated last year compared to only 139 women.

Of the 752 inmates who were randomly drug tested last year 342 were positive for narcotics, according to the report. The high positive factor was due to the fact that many inmates had drugs in their systems when they entered prison, said the report.

Last year there were 51 inmates serving life sentences while seven were on death row. The prison had 58 deportations, one extradition and 11 transfers from the United States.

According to the report the daily cost of incarceration for an inmate is $44.25 or $1,345.95 a month. The cost of feeding an inmate is $3.28 per day or $99.79 a month.


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Investigation Into Cell Phones In Prison

The following video is a short news report on the problem of smuggled prison cell phones in New Jersey. The report finds that shows that in the last 4 years, 620 contraband cell phones had been confiscated at one prison in New Jersey called Northern State. That’s more than double the number (295) found in New Jersey’s 12 other prisons combined. A former Northern State inmate says smuggled cell phones are easy to get on the inside, but not cheap. “$1,500, $1,000, $1,550, it all depends,” Simmons said”

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Peshawar Jail to Jam Cellphones

This article demonstrates that illegal prison cell phones are a problem around the world, with most prison authorities turning to cell phone jammers to block the signals of contraband prison cell phones smuggled into penal institutions.

The authorities at Peshawar, Pakistan central jail will soon install jammers to sever cellphone link of hardened criminals and militants with their accomplices outside the facility.

“Criminals stay in touch with their accomplices from inside the prisons and issue them directives for illegal activities,” official sources told Dawn and said that more security arrangements were needed at Peshawar prison, where many hardened criminals and militants had been kept.

They said that jammers would also be installed phase-wise at other jails to trace and check the flow of drugs and other forbidden items into the prisons.

Located close to government offices and courts, Peshawar central jail has the capacity to accommodate about 800 inmates, but these days over 2,000 under trial and convicted prisoners have been kept there.

This jail is considered to be one of the most sensitive prisons of the province, as it also holds suspected militants belonging to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM). Maulana Sufi Mohammad, head of the TNSM, is also being tried inside this jail.

“Many of the under-trial militants in the jail are a serious security threat,” the sources said.

Talking to this reporter, Noor Alam Khan, chairperson of Voice of Prisoners, said that he had seen prisoners misusing cell phones for crimes such as kidnapping for ransom and narcotics smuggling.

“Criminal networks stay in touch with each other and coordinate crimes by using cell phones,” he said.

He said that the authorities should take effective security measures and also keep a strict check on supply or sale of SIMs to the prisoners, which could not be possible without the role of some jail staff.

Mr Khan suggested that jail authorities should provide legal means of communication for the prisoners by installing public call office (PCO). He said that in the absence of any PCO many prisoners relied on cell phones to communicate with their families or `friends`.

The officials said that the government had allocated Rs10 million for acquiring security equipment like cell phone jammers, anti-riot instruments, walki-talkies and screens or metal detectors for the Peshawar jail.


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Program Fails to Stem Flow of Cell Phones Into Prisons

This article discusses the ineffectiveness of a two year formal program to stop contraband prison cell phones.

A two-year operation to intercept cell phones being smuggled into state prisons by employees has produced modest results and done little to stem the flow of contraband devices to inmates, according to state data.

Since 2009, authorities have seized 432 unauthorized cell phones from employees in random searches at adult prisons across the state.

It’s unclear how many of those devices were intended for the lucrative black market, said Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“Some people just forget to leave their personal cell phones at home,” she said.

The phones confiscated during “Operation Disconnect” represent just a fraction of the total number of cell phones circulating among inmates.

Last year, more than 10,000 devices were seized from inmates or found abandoned in cells, common areas and on prison yards. Authorities believe the actual number of phones being used by inmates is much higher.

In the prison black market cell phones can fetch prices of $1,000 or more.

While some inmates use the phones to communicate with friends and family, there are documented cases of prisoners using the devices to facilitate crimes and harass crime victims and witnesses.

The problem gained notoriety over the past year when authorities twice discovered contraband cell phones being used by convicted serial killer Charles Manson.

Under “Operation Disconnect” prisons are required to conduct monthly random checks on staff as they enter state facilities.

However, the searches usually do not cover all facility entrances and do not stretch to more than one work shift. Unlike some other states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, California does not routinely search prison employees on their way into work.

In contrast, all visitors are required to pass through metal detectors before they enter state prisons. It remains unclear whether visitors contribute significantly to the cell phone black market since the department of corrections does not collect data on the number of devices confiscated from non-employees.

Corrections officials say the results from “” support the department’s view that there is no single source for illicit cell phones.

“They (contraband phones) come in through many ways – staff, vendors, contractors, packages, visitors, outside work crews,” Thornton said. “We have found them in the garbage, in cereal boxes, in hollowed out Bibles, in shoes, in footballs, in body cavities, in a can of food.”

Prison officials expressed some disappointment but said they never expected the operation would wipe out the black market in cell phones.

“It’s a piece of what we’re trying to do,” said Richard Subia, a corrections deputy director.

Subia said he would like to see the state establish “airport-style screening” at every adult prison but “fiscally we can’t do that.”

However, prison officials are planning to invest millions in technology they hope will block calls from unauthorized cell phones.

“So even if the phones get into the prisons, they can’t be used,” Subia said. “They would be worthless.”


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