Tag Archives: Smuggled

Inmates Caught With Cell Phones To Lose All Privileges

An article discussing the steps the Mississippi DOC is taking to address the supply of contraband cell phones in its prisons. According the Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, “Cell phones are the biggest contraband items that we have. It’s a national problem in corrections.”

The article also discuss the managed access wireless signal jammer installed at the Parchman facility. The system has blocked about 1.8 million illegal cell phone calls and text messages. The system recently was upgraded to manage 3G technology, and a full-time managed access technician has been hired to maintain and monitor it.

The sheer volume of phone calls intercepted speaks to the fact that the vast majority of usage is most likely inmates communicating with family and loved ones. While smuggled cell phones are used for criminal activity, it is clear that a significant percentage, if not most, of the 1.8 million calls intercepted are not made with criminal intent. We believe there is a significant revenue, safety and behavior management opportunity in offering a secure prison cell phone solution to address this unmet desire for enhanced communications with friends and family.

Download our whitepaper to learn how the meshDETECT solution works.

State prisoners caught with cell phones or any cell phone component in Mississippi will soon face harsher punishment.

Loss of six months’ trusty time already is among the penalties.

But starting next month, “Zero Privilege Units” will begin at each of the state’s three prisons.

Inmates caught with cell phones will lose all privileges. Also, they won’t be allowed to purchase items from the commissary, the prison store, and they won’t be allowed to use the regular prison phone.

“We realize we have a problem and we are doing something about it,” Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps said. “This will send a strong message.”

MDOC’s confiscation of at least 3,400 cell phones from inmates and Facebook pages created using smartphones from behind prison walls are behind the increased discipline, despite best efforts to keep cell phones out.

Cell phones are “the biggest contraband items that we have,” said Epps, who has been cited nationally for his efforts to prevent illicit use of cell phones in the country’s correctional facilities. ” It’s a national problem in corrections.”

Over the last two years, at least two murderers were updating their Facebook pages from behind prison walls in Mississippi using smartphone technology on cellphones smuggled into them.

Last year, MDOC had 70 Facebook pages deactivated.

In October, MDOC officials contacted Facebook’s corporate office and asked that murderer Jonathan Davis’ account be deactivated.

Until that point, Davis, 27, had been on the page and updating it since he arrived at the State Penitentiary at Parchman in 2004. Davis was convicted of 2002 capital murder in Lauderdale County.

In November 2010, MDOC officials also had another convicted killer’s Facebook page deactivated.

William Joseph Hogan, 30, had been corresponding on his Facebook page since he was sent to prison in 2009. Hogan was convicted of the 2008 murder of his wife in DeSoto County. Family members of the victim alerted prison officials to Hogan’s Facebook page.

Around the country, there have been reports of inmates using Facebook to contact victims, make sexual advances, or in some cases, to plan crimes.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes has said the social networking site will work with law enforcement and other officials to shut down inmate Facebook pages.

Janice Howard, whose son was killed in 2007, said she applauds Epps’ efforts to get cellphones out of the hands of inmates.

“No, they shouldn’t have that right. They gave up the right by the crimes they committed,” Howard said.

Shawn States, 25, the man who killed Justin Howard and his friend, Antoine Reece, was convicted in 2010 of two counts of capital murder and is serving two life sentences without parole.

In August 2010, MDOC launched the first cell phone detection/management system in the nation at Parchman. The managed access system intercepts all incoming and outgoing cell phone signals and allows prison authorities to manage calls that are not allowed and those that are allowed by pre-entering the allowed cell phone numbers in the system.

Since its installation, the system has blocked about 1.8 million illegal cell phone calls and text message, Epps said. The system recently was upgraded to manage 3G technology, and a full-time managed access technician has been hired to maintain and monitor it.

MDOC is actively working with the vendor to install a manage access system at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl and South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.

Epps said MDOC has undertaken other efforts to eradicate illegal cell phones, including:

•Weekly searches for WiFi Internet signals at all prisons.

•A body cavity detection system.

•K-9 cell phone detection dogs.

•Hand wand metal detectors.

•Walk-through metal detection systems.

•Increased searches of inmates and staff.

Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, has proposed legislation to increase the penalty for providing cell phones to inmates.

Senate Bill 2020, which has been referred to the Corrections Committee, would increase the maximum penalty from 15 years to 20 years.


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Prison Worker Accused Of Taking $33K in Bribes

An article highlighting the money to be made by corrupt prison employees meeting the demand for contraband prison cell phones. This also highlights the need for a demand-side strategy to the problem of smuggled cell phones in prison.

A federal grand jury has indicted a California prison worker on charges that he accepted bribes from prisoners in exchange for cell phones and cigarettes.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy says medical office technician David Zamudio has been charged with committing honest services wire fraud during his employment at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County.Zamudio is accused of wrongly taking in more than $33,000 in bribes from Feb. 2009 to Oct. 2010.

Authorities say he smuggled in the phones and tobacco products and received payment through MoneyGram or Western Union in return.


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Cellphones Don’t Belong In These Cells

We 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.”


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Despite Cell Phone Jamming, Killer Uses Facebook In Prison

No technology is perfect, and that includes cell phone jamming technology. The real issue here is how compromised is the wireless blocking system installed at Parchman to combat contraband cell phones? The meshDETECT secure cell phone service has no internet access available so prisoners cannot access Facebook or Twitter.

An inmate inside a Mid-South prison has been able to take pictures and post them online, despite a high-tech blocking technology put in place to keep him from doing just that.

Lois “Lee” Hudspeth is serving a life sentence for the brutal murder Jennifer Young. Hudspeth beat Young to death with a tire iron and dumped her body into a body of water at Askew Wildlife Refuge in Tunica County, Mississippi.

Young’s husband spoke to Action News 5 after his wife’s body was found in 2003. John Young said he barely recognized the mother of his young son.

“I didn’t even know who she was. Only by the markings on her body,” he said. I hope they catch this SOB who did this. I want them to catch him.”

Hudspeth was caught, and pleaded guilty to first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison – cut off from the outside world. But now, he’s found freedom on Facebook, to dismay of Young’s sister-in-law, Deborah Russell.

“His attitude looks like he ain’t sorry. Looks like he’s enjoying life,” she said. “It’s said, because, I mean, he shouldn’t be able to do that.”

Russell can’t believe Hudspeth is able to access social media in his jail cell, posting pictures and playing internet games like Bingo Blitz and Farmville.

It’s not the first time Action News 5 has busted inmates posting on Facebook. Each time they were using an illegal cell phone that was smuggled inside their cells. And after each report, the phones were confiscated and the inmates punished – until this time.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections cannot say how Hudspeth managed to get photos of himself on Facebook. They’re likely at a loss because Hudspeth is at a prison with “cell blocking” technology.

It’s called “Operation Cellblock,” a hi-tech system that claims to “shut down illegal inmate cell phone usage.” The company, Tecore Networks, says the system puts a “radio frequency umbrella” over prisons which blocks un-authorized users but allows authorized users to still get out.

Hudspeth is locked up at Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, where the MDOC launched the cell blocking system in September last year. Yet he uploaded a picture of himself in July, and played games on Facebook as recently as September.

Action News 5 asked a Tecore Networks spokesperson how Hudspeth could be on Facebook with operation cellblock in effect. The spokesperson said, “I have no idea, you have no idea, the prison has no idea. No one knows for sure until you can find out how this guy is doing it.”

Meanwhile, an MDOC spokesperson said Hudspeth’s Facebook activity is under investigation. Hudspeth actually has two accounts. If investigators determine he has or had a cell phone, they will take appropriate action.

Even if someone on the outside is helping Hudspeth with his Facebook account, he would still need a cell phone to text or email that person the pictures from his jail cell photo shoot.

Prison officials say the illegal cell phone trade is appealing to visitors and staff because inmates can pay up to $500 for a phone. Dozens of prison staffers have been arrested over the past four years for supplying phones.

Since September of last year, more than one million cell phone calls or texts attempted by inmates at Parchman have been intercepted and successfully blocked by Tecore’s technology, which is provided at no cost as part of its contract with the Mississippi Department of Correction to provide phone service.


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Remote Control Helicopter Smuggled Cellphone Into Prison

The creative smuggling of contraband cell phones into prison is not just limited to the Untied States as this article on a remote-controlled helicopter smuggling cell phones in Thailand shows.

We guess that it’s a generally accepted rule that cellphones aren’t allowed in prison, and we’re guessing it’s for a huge variety of reasons. After all the point of prison is to serve your time and rehabilitate yourself, and not to spend all day yakking on the phone, right? So how is it that in movies and television shows, prison inmates end up with cellphones? While the movies and television shows have been scripted, it seems that in Thailand, a rather innovative and unique method of smuggling cellphones has been uncovered.

It has been reported that a remote-controlled helicopter had crashed near a prison in Ratchaburi according to the local police yesterday. The helicopter was said to have been carrying cellphones along with cellphone parts/components and millions of Thai Baht, which we’re guessing was meant to be delivered to the prison inmates. Discovered inside the shockproof box that was attached beneath the helicopter, police found seven cellphones, four satellite phones, a number of SIM cards, eight cellphone batteries and three cellphone screens.

It seems that the cellphones, SIM cards and phone parts were meant to be sold on the prison’s black market. It was reported that parts and phones were worth anywhere between 2 million to 3 million Thai Baht, but it seems on the black market, it could have easily gone for 10 million Thai Baht ($321,387).


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UK Prison To Trial Phones In Prison Cells

Providing prisoners secure cell phones is an idea whose time has come. The latest British prison to provide land-line phones in prison cells to control the contraband cell phone problem is being chosen for a trial of service. This is after a similar successful trial in a private UK prison. According to the article, the reason for this latest initiative is, “to stamp out the illegal use of mobiles in prisons and the flourishing black market in smuggled phones. It will also end the scenes, made familiar by television dramas, of inmates queuing to use public phones on prison landings.”

Rather than undertaking the cost and hassle of wiring phones in cells, the benefit of using secure cell phones such as those provided by meshDETECT, would be that they can be handed out only to those who have earned them through good behavior. Still, this is a step in the right direction. The time has come to address the demand side of the supply-and-demand equation of smuggled cell phones in prison

Prisoners could soon have telephones installed in their cells, allowing them to make calls from their beds.

Officials are searching for a suitable jail to pilot the scheme and HMP Isis, a young offenders’ institution in South East London, is believed to be the most likely choice. The prison can hold 252 inmates in single and double cells, and each cell would have a landline phone installed.

The move is intended to stamp out the illegal use of mobiles in prisons and the flourishing black market in smuggled phones. It will also end the scenes, made familiar by television dramas, of inmates queuing to use public phones on prison landings.

Many people will regard the move as another perk for prisoners – but prison staff are backing the plan.

Mark Freeman, deputy general secretary at the Prison Officers Association, said: ‘We think it will improve control in prison.

‘There is a major problem with mobiles at present. People smuggle them in and there is a massive black market. Others bring in SIM cards. The more business-minded prisoners run the operation like a BT monopoly.

‘Then there are the problems with public phones on wings. There are complaints about long queues and inmates having phone cards snatched from them by bullies. Often only one of the three phones will be working.’

Mr Freeman said calls from cells would be recorded and monitored but insisted that, as staff would no longer have to supervise queues for the public phones, the scheme would save money in the long run.

Prisoners will have to pay for their own calls by buying phone cards or credit from the prison shop. They will also be issued with a personal account and PIN number which has to be dialled before getting an outside line. There will be no incoming calls.Inmates will have to supply prison staff with the names, addresses and phone numbers of people they wish to call

These lists will be vetted and agreed in advance to ensure that prisoners are not harassing victims or organising drug deals or other criminal rackets from behind bars.

Calls to sex lines and bookmakers will also be barred.

Precise details are still to be finalised and may vary from prison to prison. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: ‘The Prison Service is currently exploring the possibility of a pilot installation in a state-run establishment. We cannot be more specific about where the pilot site will be at this stage.’

The plan has angered some in the criminal justice system.

Chief Supt Derek Barnett, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: ‘This sends a confused message to many police officers who have spent time and effort investigating serious crimes and seeing the perpetrators sent to prison.

‘It’s important for prisoners to keep in touch with their families, but it would be difficult for police, victims and the public to understand this latest idea.’

John Howson, a council member of the 28,000-strong Magistrates’ Association, also accepted the importance of prisoners keeping in touch with family, but said a phone should be a ‘reward for hard work and good behaviour’.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, warned of the dangers of abuse.

He said many men were in jail following serious harassment of women, often ex-partners, and that one jail ¬currently held about 40 stalkers.

The vetting system would have to be very thorough to ensure there was no abuse, Mr Fletcher said. ‘Some women have had serious breakdowns and the danger is that the harassment could continue.’

Phil Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, is to raise the issue with Ministers. He said: ‘This is a ridiculous idea and is happening because the prison service is being run for the convenience of prisoners and staff.

‘The point is to be able to reduce the number of officers on duty. It’s another example of the justice system going soft, which makes the public lose confidence in it.

‘Many prisoners have a better standard of living inside than on the outside. No wonder people ask why prison doesn’t stop them reoffending.’

Phones have been installed in privately run prisons but this is the first time there has been a move to put them in state-run institutions.


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Nassau Lawyer Wants Smuggled Cell Phones Banned

This article from the Bahamas on the problem of contraband cell phones in prison identifies the usual issues with smuggled cell phones. One prisoner states, “Everyone doesn’t have a phone to do foolishness. Sometimes you just want to contact your loved ones. If we had phone access like a prison in (a) foreign (country), they could monitor the conversations.” This is exactly what the meshDETECT secure cell phone solution offers.

A lawyer has called on officials to eliminate cell phone access for prisoners.

Elsworth Johnson was motivated to speak out on the issue after he learned of an incident where a member of the public received a threatening call from an inmate.

Johnson said that prisoners use the devices to intimidate witnesses, abuse members of the public and pervert the administration of justice.

“ I was filled with rage that such a coward and many others like him are permitted on a daily basis to conduct their affairs with impunity,” he said.  “Here I am in New Providence, unable to communicate with my family in Cat Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, and prisoners seem to be able to communicate better than I can.”

National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest told Parliament recently of plans to purchase a cell phone jammer.

He said, “The unauthorized 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.”

Prison officials confiscated 240 cell phones from inmates at the prison between January to May this year.

Smuggling contraband is a lucrative business.  Former inmates told The Nassau Guardian recently that they have paid from $200 to $1,000 for cell phones.  According to those inmates, prices differ depending on the inmates’ relationship with the guards, the type of phone and their location in the prison.  An inmate claimed that guards allegedly  kept his phone overnight and charged it to reduce the chances of it being confiscated in a raid.

News reports have documented incidents where inmates at the prison have used the devices to intimidate witnesses, plan escapes, orchestrate crimes and even order hits.

A man accused of murder reportedly had a bail application denied after prosecutors alleged that he had contacted an eyewitness and promised that she would be the victim of a 187, the street code for murder.

However, some inmates said not everyone with an illegal cell phone uses it for a sinister purpose.

“Everyone doesn’t have a phone to do foolishness. Sometimes you just want to contact your loved ones,” an inmate said.  “If we had phone access like a prison in (a) foreign (country), they could monitor the conversations.”

In a prior interview, Turnquest said guards could face dismissal or other disciplinary sanctions if caught smuggling phones. Inmates found with phones could have time added to their sentences or face further criminal charges if it is found their phones were used to commission an ‘egregious criminal act.”

Turnquest said the government was committed to eliminating cell phone usage at the prison. Officials purchased a cell phone jammer following the murder of Cpl. Deon Bowles during a prison escape in 2006.  However, the device blocked phones outside the prison compound, which is located in a residential community.

A police investigator told an inquest into Bowles’ death that inmates had given him the names of guards responsible for smuggling contraband.


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