A cell phone can be a lifesaver, but in the hands of a dangerous criminal, it can be used to threaten someone’s life. That’s why cell phones in prison are considered dangerous weapons, but plenty of inmates end up with a cell in their cellblock.
Phones are smuggled into prisons inside cakes, shower shoes, even body cavities and then well hidden.
“They’ll unbolt the toilet from the floor, then put the cell phone in cellophane to keep the moisture away, and then hide it under the toilet,” said Kevin Dean, head of Florida’s Contraband Interdiction Team for the Department of Corrections.
The problem is nationwide. Thousands of phones have been confiscated in California
“They plan escapes and coordinate escapes with them. We have evidence of this. We have evidence that they threaten witnesses, threaten victims,” offered Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections.
Charles Manson even managed to get his hands on a phone on two separate occasions.
Manson called people across country and right here in Florida from behind prison walls, according to the California department of corrections.
“I’ve seen the world spinning on fire. I’ve danced and sang in the devil’s choir,” Manson told an answering machine, according to the TV show Inside Edition.
Cell phones are worth big money behind bars. One guard in California reportedly made $140,000 smuggling them in before he was caught. Here in Florida, inmates also have help getting their hands on phones.
“They’re smuggled in through our visitation process. They’re dropped off at work squad sites. We’ve caught vendors coming in that have developed a relationship with a particular inmate,” Dean continued.
So what do the numbers look like in Florida? Since the state passed a law making it a felony back in 2008, 2,688 phones have been confiscated.
Last year, there were 152 cell phone incidents involving staff and contractors. According to the Department of Corrections, most were likely innocent mistakes, but sometimes guards are to blame.
Investigators arrested and charged two guards in July of 2010 with smuggling cell phones into the Graceville Correctional Facility in Florida’s Panhandle.
According to the arrest affidavit, guard Tyler Daniels “…had an arrangement with an inmate incarcerated at the prison who was to pay him $1,000 per package to deliver them inside the institution.”
One package contained three phones. Guard Matthew Crawford is accused of helping him. They’ve pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
To fight back, Florida’s DOC now has two phone-sniffing dogs, named Uno and Razor, to try and prevent inmates from ever getting a whiff of the outside.
Those caught smuggling cell phones into prisons can be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
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