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Officers Smuggling Mobile Phones Into Prisons

This news report discusses the problem of contraband cell phones smuggled into a Ghana prison. According to the article, “the most precious commodity inside the Nsawam prison today is the mobile phone.” It also states, “The use of mobile phones in our facilities has become a serious business raking in money for both inmates and prison officers.” As discussed in an earlier blog post, contraband cell phones are now seen to be the prison system’s greatest threat here in the United States as well. Any solution to this problem, whether here or abroad, should include a strategy to address the demand for as well as the supply of contraband cell phones.

Hardened criminals in Ghanaian jail houses may be coordinating armed robbery attacks and running narcotic drug businesses from behind bars, investigations by The Globe newspaper have revealed.

The Globe has established growing use of illegal cellular phones in Ghana’s jail houses, especially at the Nsawam Medium Security Prison. There is a long lasting ban on the use of mobile phones behind bars. Our investigations established that ever smaller handsets allow phones to be smuggled in by prisoners, visitors or corrupt staff.

On January 9, 2012, the total number of inmates in the nation’s jail houses stood at 13,588. At the Nsawam Prison, official figures put the population of inmates at 3,512. But, it is unknown the unknown the number of inmates at Nsawam who have access to the smuggled mobile phones. “Indeed, the most precious commodity inside the Nsawam prison today is the mobile phone”, said a worried junior officer with the Ghana Prisons Service, who wished not to be named. There are fears illegal phones could fuel prison drug trading, bullying and gang problems.

Behind bars, phones can cost 300 Ghana cedis (~$174 US), the phones are usually paid for by relations and friends of phone-seeking inmates. Smuggled into the prisons by relations of inmates and in many cases prison officers, the phones are used to organise narcotic drug deals, intimidate victims, and plan armed robbery attacks from prison with criminal gangs outside the prison walls. “The use of mobile phones in our facilities has become a serious business raking in money for both inmates and prison officers,” the officer said.

“It is an issue that has been with us for some time now,” the young Prison Officer told the Globe newspaper, adding: “Top management of the Prison Service is aware, but has virtually refused to deal with the problem.” “Visitors to the facilities and some corrupt senior officers are the ones fueling the illegal practice,” said the officer.

The revelations come at the time some European countries and some states in the United States have stepped up crack-down on illegal mobile phone use in their jail houses, after a series of bloody prison violence blamed on phones smuggled into prison cells.

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