Archives for the category: Inmates and Cell Phones

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July 28, 2009

Prison software sniffs out cell phone signals

A company called AirPatrol looks to solve illegal cell and wireless devices in prison with “Wireless Locator System” software. It’s basically able to sniff out Wi-Fi and cellular signals in a given area and pinpoint the location of those devices on a map, writes CrunchGear.

According to the company press release:

quotemarksright.jpgWLS is the best alternative solution to the contraband cell phone problem plaguing correctional facilities across the nation. WLS wirelessly detects and pinpoints contraband cell phones and unlike RF jamming techniques is completely legal and approved for use in the United States and doesn’t interfere with authorized, legitimate cell phone usage.

WLS yields 24 x 7, 365 days a year, real-time cell phone and Wi-Fi device location details throughout a correctional facility. WLS includes a forensics database, an essential tool for logging and archiving cell phone event information, including where a phone is detected, allowing prison monitors to see a log of the start and stop times of voice calls, as well as emails, SMS and MMS.quotesmarksleft.jpg

emily | 9:00 AM | permalink

July 15, 2009

States Seek to Jam Prison Cellphone Signals

prisoncellphone5-09.jpg According to an article in The New York Times, blocking signals from contraband cellphones in jails might just get legal aproval.

quotemarksright.jpgTwo dozen state corrections agencies have signed a petition that would waive a 1934 federal ban on telecommunications jamming for prisons and other exceptional cases.

Lobbyists for telecommunication companies say that any weakening of antijamming legislation could become a slippery slope that eventually could inappropriately limit cellphone use.

Law enforcement officials say that smuggled cellphones are a growing problem across the country, allowing inmates to make unmonitored calls.

Some states like California and Maryland have trained canine units to sniff out cellphones in prisons, but prison officials say that the best way to disrupt cellphone use is by using jamming equipment.

“Jamming technology has come a long way,” said Jon Ozmint, the director of South Carolina’s corrections system. “It used to be that you had to jam a large area.” quotesmarksleft.jpg

Picture left of inmates in the Carandiru Prison, Latin America's largest, use a celular phone during a 2001 rebellion in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Update: Jamming Prison Phones Will Backfire, Groups Warn Congress

emily | 9:33 AM | permalink

May 26, 2009

Remote control helicopters deliver cell phones to inmates

_45822852_phoneplaneap.jpg Police in Brazil have foiled a plot to smuggle mobile phones into a high-security prison using a remotely-controlled model helicopter. The BBC reports.

quotemarksright.jpgPrisoners in Brazilian jails routinely use mobile phones to carry on with criminal activity, and the police say the ones they recovered were probably intended to go to gang leaders inside the jail.

It is not the first time that the authorities have foiled an innovative attempt to smuggle material into a jail in Brazil.

Earlier this year Sao Paulo state prison guards uncovered a plot using pigeons to carry mobile phone parts over the walls of a jail.quotesmarksleft.jpg

emily | 9:44 AM | permalink

May 20, 2009

Report. Smuggled Cell Phones Helping NJ Prisoners Commit Crimes from Jail

prison_cellphones_1124.jpg A new study of New Jersey’s prison system suggests that street gang members who are behind bars are able to do much of what they did on the street, in part by using new technologies, mostly cell phones. KYW Newsradio reports.

quotemarksright.jpgThe State Commission of Investigation has traditionally probed organized crime. These days, their main concern is gangs like the “Bloods,” and Commission chair Cary Edwards says this 36-page report suggests their sphere of influence behind bars is "frightening."

"They use advanced cell phones, Blackberrys, other smuggled electronic devices to readily communicate and conduct criminal enterprises from within prisons while incarcerated."

Edwards says there is also extortion, drug dealing, and movement of what’s labeled “unlimited amounts of money” through inmate accounts.

Among the allegations: extortion of guards, and communications not only with those on the outside but with fellow gang members in other prisons.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Related links to article on inmates and cell phones.

emily | 8:32 AM | permalink

May 14, 2009

Texas: A jail sentence of 60 years was handed down to an inmate caught with cell phone

According to the Palestine Herald-Press, Derrick Ross, 38, a Coffield Unit inmate was sentenced to (a shocking) 60 years in prison Tuesday after an Anderson County (Texas) jury found him guilty of possessing a cell phone in a correctional facility.

quotemarksright.jpg ... Because Ross was found to be a habitual offender (on three different occasions he stole cars), the range of punishment for having a cell phone in a correctional facility was 25 years to 99 years or life. Normally the range of punishment would be 2 to 10 years.

A sentence of 60 years is one of the highest sentences in the state that has been handed down by a jury for possession of a cell phone in prison.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Shame on the jury.

emily | 11:33 PM | permalink

April 15, 2009

Calif. mulls criminalizing cell phones in prison

According to, one California state senator is trying to crack down on inmates using cell phones while serving time.

quotemarksright.jpgPrison inmates in California aren't really permitted to have cell phones. They have to forfeit their devices before being locked up. But that hasn't stopped thousands of phones from being smuggled into prisons each year. In fact, officials say that the number of cell phones confiscated in California prisons has doubled in the last year from 1,400 devices in 2007 to about 2,800 in 2008. And the problem appears to be getting worse this year.

California State Sen. John Benoit wants to make it a misdemeanor crime with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine for a prisoner to possess a cell phone in any state prison. The new bill he is introducing called SB 434.quotesmarksleft.jpg

emily | 9:36 AM | permalink

March 30, 2009

Former Prisoner Sues Over Confiscated Mobile Phone

A former prisoner is suing the UK prison service for compensation after a contraband mobile phone was confiscated and destroyed, reports Cellular News. The UK forbids prisoners from having mobile phones, and a search following a visit from his girlfriend found a mobile phone in the cell occupied by Mark Coleman. The phone was taken away and destroyed - while Coleman was given prison punishments.

quotemarksright.jpgHowever, in a legal action, Coleman is claiming that the prison authorities were wrong to destroy the phone and should have kept it in storage until he was released. Lawyers are claiming that in destroying the phone, the prison service had unlawfully deprived him of his property.

The Samsung branded phone was used in a police dog training session and chewed up by the dogs. quotesmarksleft.jpg


-- Jail dog sniffs out illicit phones

-- More on Murphy, first sniffer dog able to detect cell phones

emily | 11:00 AM | permalink

January 27, 2009

Smart-Jamming for Mobile Phones in US Prison

Tecore Networks says that it has deployed its Intelligent Network Access Controller (IntelliNAC) to address the growing problem of illegal cell phone use by prison inmates in an unnamed U.S. locality.

While restricting the localized use of unknown cellular devices within the IntelliNAC coverage area, approved prison personnel remain able to access the commercial cellular network service within the prison grounds as well as external to the prison through their existing cellular subscriptions.

[via Cellular News]

emily | 7:50 AM | permalink

November 26, 2008

Trying to Keep Cell Phones Out of Prison


A thorough article from TIME on inmates and cell phones around the world. Most of what is written has been posted over the years in this blog, but this is a great round-up in one place.

quotemarksright.jpgCell-phone access can mean chaos. Brazilian officials say cell phones are used to organize and plan widespread riots that are endemic to their crowded prisons; Canadian prosecutors said a notorious drug kingpin continued business behind bars using his cell phone; and a man awaiting trial on a homicide charge in Maryland has been accused of arranging via cell phone the murder of a key witness in the case. The examples go on and on, some bordering on the absurd. The mother of a prisoner in Texas even called authorities to complain about her son's bad cell-phone reception in jail.quotesmarksleft.jpg

emily | 3:52 PM | permalink

November 25, 2008

Cell jammers still illegal, but may come to state prisons

Although rumors persist of their use in restaurants and movie theaters, the use of cell phone jamming equipment remains illegal in the US. Right now, the only permissible use is by federal law enforcement officials, but that may change if state prison officials in South Carolina and a manufacturer of jamming equipment have their way. Both would like to see state law enforcement get permission to use the jammers, which may push the technology a bit closer to the mainstream.

[via ars technica]

emily | 10:15 AM | permalink

November 15, 2008

Another death row inmate caught with cell phone

In the second seizure this week since a systemwide lockdown and search for contraband ended, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officers have found a phone inside the body of condemned inmate Hank Skinner, reports The Houston Chronicle.

quotemarksright.jpgTwo cell phone SIM cards were found hidden in Skinner's Bible during a routine search Friday afternoon of his cell at the Polunsky Unit near Livingston and the cell phone was found hidden in his rectum after conducting an X-ray in the infirmary, said department spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.quotesmarksleft.jpg

Related: - Death Row inmate makes threatening call to Senator

emily | 8:44 AM | permalink

October 22, 2008

Poor staffing and surveillance lead to influx of cell phones in Texas jails

prison650.jpg Poor surveillance, inadequate staffing and underpaid, easily corrupted corrections guards have allowed Texas prison inmates to easily obtain phones and other contraband, criminal justice officials acknowledged Tuesday, the day after three cellphones were recovered from death row. The Dallas Morning News reports.

quotemarksright.jpgOne of these phones logged 2,800 calls over the last month and was used by a convicted murderer to make threatening calls to state Sen. John Whitmire.

Texas' 156,000 inmates remained on lockdown Tuesday after Monday's revelation that a guard had accepted a bribe to get murderer Richard Tabler a cellphone.

Mr. Tabler and at least nine other death row inmates, most of them affiliated with violent gangs, made more than 2,800 calls over 30 days. The calls to Mr. Whitmire referenced the names of his daughters, their ages, and where they live in Houston.

Wardens from Texas' death row testified at the hearing that their surveillance cameras don't record footage, and that metal detectors often don't detect cellphones that are predominantly plastic. Only 22 of the state's 112 units have walk-through metal detectors. quotesmarksleft.jpg


-- Death Row inmate makes threatening call to Senator

-- Cell phone smuggling is a big problem in Texas prisons (April 2006)

emily | 8:16 AM | permalink

October 21, 2008

Death Row inmate makes threatening call to Senator

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas ordered a systemwide search of the nation's second-largest prison system for contraband, following a convicted killer's threatening calls to a state senator made from a cell phone smuggled to him on death row - by his mother.

[via the The Houston Chronicle]

emily | 10:02 AM | permalink

September 1, 2008

Seven Prisoners Hospitalised After Hiding Mobile Phones in Their Bodies

Pakistan's Prisons Department has carried out a series of sweeps of prisoners at Camp Jail using metal detectors and seized 30 mobile phones which had been hidden in their rectums. Seven of the prisoners had to have medical intervention to remove the phones.

"... The phenomena of prisoners and prison visitors concealing phones and other forbidden items inside their body is fairly commonplace. Hiding phones inside the body is not without its dangers though - and last June, a UK prisoner was admitted to hospital after he hid a mobile phone inside his body and was unable to expel it later. He had to have over 200 internal stitches and the doctors had to remove part of his bladder."

[via Cellular News]

emily | 9:25 AM | permalink

July 23, 2008

Nun the wiser: mobile phone found in jail birthday cake

ChocolateMobilePhoneCake-L.jpg The chaplain of Mountjoy Jail in Dublin was used unwittingly yesterday in an attempt to smuggle a mobile phone into the jail -- in a birthday cake. The Belfast Telegraph reports.

"... Since x-ray machines were introduced, the smuggling of drugs and mobile phones into Mountjoy through visitors has ceased and the price of purchasing a phone in the jail has jumped dramatically.

Officials said this incident showed prisoners were becoming desperate to find other ways to bring in the contraband.

"This is a classic case," one official said last night. "It's like a plot out of an old English film, made in Pinewood studios. But in this case, heavenly intervention was on our side."

It is a criminal offence to smuggle a mobile phone into a jail, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. "

emily | 7:47 AM | permalink

July 15, 2008

Cell Phone Detector Dogs

marylandsnifferdogs.gif Maryland has three trained dogs that can sniff out phones smuggled into prisons, reports The Washington Post.

Each cell phone has a unique scent signature, according to an officer in a video showing the dogs at work, it's the same thing that makes it possible for a blood hound to track one person.

The first dog to sniff cell phones was called Murphy, he was a 20 month-old English Springer Spaniel in 2006 who had been trained in prisons across the East of England.

emily | 3:15 PM | permalink

June 25, 2008

Carrier pigeons fly cell phones into jails

carrierpigjail.jpeg A sharp increase in drugs and cellphones found inside a Brazilian prison mystified officials -- until guards spotted some distressed pigeons struggling to stay airborne, writes Reuters.

"Inmates at the prison in Marilia, Sao Paulo state had been training carrier pigeons to smuggle in goods using cell phone sized pouches on their backs, a low-tech but ingenious way of skipping the high-tech security that visitors faced.

... Officials said the pigeons, bred and trained inside the prison, lived on the jail's roof, where prisoners would take their deliveries before smuggling the birds out again through friends and family."

emily | 6:56 PM | permalink

June 24, 2008

Row over phone call costs in UK jails

jailphone.jpeg UK consumer groups have lodged an official complaint over the high charges prisoners are paying to make phone calls, reports Ananova.

"The "super complaint" to regulator Ofcom says a 30-minute phone call from a prison to a landline costs more than seven times the amount of a call from a public payphone.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "Prisoners staying in touch with their families is known to reduce the risk, both of reoffending on release and of suicide and self-harm in prison, so it is in everyone's interest to enable people to phone home."

emily | 7:51 AM | permalink

June 15, 2008

How cell phones and drugs reach inmates

inclph.jpeg Senior Prisons Department officials explained to Pakistan's Daily Time the many ways cell phones were smuggled into jails:

Soap: Many visitors use bars of soap to smuggle small cellphones or drugs.

Homemade food: jail authorities sympathised with prisoners because they could not eat homemade meals, they never checked closely the food that the prisoners’ visitors brought.

Shoes Visitors smuggle in cellphone hiding them in their shoes.

Body cavities: You figure that one out or click here.

Another innovative carrier was reported from a Thai Prison, where a cell phone was smuggled in a dead toad which was thrown against a wall to retrieve it.

But probably the most alarming way for an inmate to obtain a cellphone is bribing a warden to provide one.

emily | 2:50 PM | permalink

December 26, 2007

Amy Winehouse's husbands phones from jail

amywithblake.gif According to The Sun, English soul-pop singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse's husband is using a smuggled phone to make illegal calls from jail.

"Junkie Blake Fielder-Civil, 25, is hiding a mobile in his cell while on remand for alleged trial rigging.

Sources claim he has been using it to call and text troubled singer Amy, 24, and music industry associates.

... Fielder-Civil is awaiting trial, with another man, for assaulting barman James King in Hoxton, North London, and then offering him £200,000 ($396.000) to change his story."

emily | 9:39 AM | permalink

December 22, 2007

Prisons call in body scanner to defeat mobile phone smugglers

boss_1_257727a.jpg The Government is to consider installing electronic body scanners which can detect mobile phones and metal weapons hidden inside people’s bodies into every jail in England and Wales. Times Online reports.

"David Hanson, the Prisons Minister, said today that putting the £6,500 ($12.900) scanner in every jail would help to counter the growing number of mobile phones being smuggled into prisons.

The body orifice security scanner (Boss) is a mobile chair with three sensitive sensors which can detect metal items as small as a pin or paper clip when they are hidden on or inside an individual.

A prisoner sits on the chair and the machine issues a red alert when an object is found within or around the body. Mobile phones are frequently smuggled into jails in body orifices.

... Mr Hanson said that the Boss chair offered a better way of dealing with mobile phones than trying to instal a jamming system as this would also effect the use of mobile phones in nearby houses and on roads in the vicinity."

emily | 7:42 PM | permalink

December 5, 2007

Warden hangs up on cellphones inside Afghan jail

146651.jpeg According to the National Post, the warden of Afghanistan's most notorious prison is cracking down on a dangerous new weapon falling into the hands of inmates: the cellular phone.

Several inmates with political or criminal connections are obtaining cellphones illegally to co-ordinate protests, attacks, or even robberies from inside Pul-e-Charkhi, the prison's recently appointed warden, Cmdr. Haji Dolath, 50, said.

Located on the outskirts of Kabul, off an isolated stretch of dirt road, Pul-e-Charkhi has about 3,000 prisoners who come from all over the country. About half of the prisoners are Taliban, or leaders of criminal gangs.

"As it is the central jail of Afghanistan, prisoners from all parts of the country -- the most dangerous people -- are brought here," Cmdr. Dolath told CanWest News Service in an interview at his office this week. "With the phones they can guide other Taliban members on the outside, and the outside members can give them guidance.

... Controlling the influx of cellphones into the prison is difficult because inmates -- or their families -- are bribing guards to bring them in, Dolath said. One guard described how prisoners were willing to pay as much as five times the price of a $40 phone.

It's a fortune for Afghan prison guards who earn about $50 a month, Cmdr. Dolath said.

... The cellphones are also a major problem inside the prison, as inmates in Pul-e-Charkhi's seven blocks -- one of which is for 90 female prisoners -- can use them to communicate with each other and rally their political contacts. When authorities tried to implement a prison uniform, inmates used their phones to lobby certain Afghan MPs, said deputy minister of justice Mr. Hashimzai.

Uniforms were never introduced."

emily | 8:34 PM | permalink

December 3, 2007

Prison drug barons thrive on illicit phones

_74151_wandsworth300.jpg Inmates in the biggest jail in Britain are ordering drugs, continuing to run criminal activities and plotting escapes using mobile phones that are smuggled into the building, according to a watchdog report, writes the Times Online.

"The “apparently limitless” supply of mobile phones in Wandsworth prison is increasing the supply of drugs on the wings as well as “fuelling a whole group of new users”, the report said. Almost 250 mobile phones were found inside Wandsworth, in southwest London, in the first five months of this year, the report from the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board disclosed."

... The report, which covers 2006-07, said. “Mobile phones are used to facilitate the delivery of drugs to prisoners, continue criminal activities from within, pressurize vulnerable prisoners, contact families of prisoners and staff, plan escapes, bullying, intimidation and a host of other unsavoury activities.

The report said that it was only a matter of time before a “very serious incident” took place because of mobile phone use".

emily | 11:19 AM | permalink

October 22, 2007

Cell phone radio caller shot dead

A former prisoner who went on Irish radio last summer using a mobile phone from his prison cell has been shot dead in Dublin. The BBC reports.

"In May, Daly came to prominence when he called a radio show using a mobile phone from his cell in Portlaoise jail.

The armed robber's comments on one of RTE Radio's most popular shows - Liveline - in connection with an alleged gangland feud prompted a national furore.

... Daly had to be placed under protection after his call prompted a massive search of jails, uncovering a large haul of contraband including mobile phones, plasma televisions and pet budgies. "

emily | 11:21 AM | permalink

October 2, 2007

More than 1,600 mobile phones seized from prisoners

According to The Belfast Telegraph, more than 1,600 mobile phones have reportedly been seized from prisoners across Ireland over the past year.

"Reports this morning say more than 550 have been taken from inmates at Mountjoy Prison alone."

Inmates smulgging in cell phone stories are common, but this part of the article is more unusual: The crackdown was mounted following the controversy sparked when one inmate rang the Irish radio Joe Duffy show from his cell in Portlaoise earlier this year."

emily | 8:49 AM | permalink

August 18, 2007

Irish Law Bans Mobile Use by Prisoners

Three men have each been handed down a one-month jail term for the unlawful use of a mobile phone while in prison, reports Belfast Telegraph via Irish Law Bans Mobile Use by Prisoners.

"They are the first to be sentenced for this offence, which was brought in under the Prisons Act 2007 this year.

The legislation was brought in on May 1st, making the possession or use of a phone by inmates a criminal offence."

emily | 7:41 AM | permalink

July 31, 2007

Inmates use their smuggled cell phones to order feasts

A fun story from the Birhmingham Mail, about inmates using smuggled cell phones at a minimum security facility - not to organize crime on the outside - but to order take out! The prison smells delicious.

"The orders are massive - because the prisoners have got money, every dormitory smells delicious and that just winds up the other prisoners to order food for themselves.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said "prisoners are not permitted to order a takeaway and will be disciplined if they are found doing so."

emily | 2:39 PM | permalink

June 30, 2007

Inmates Smuggle Cell Phones For More Than Calling

prisonPA_228x305.jpg Lieutenant Tim Wamble describes a worst-case scenario for the California Prison system: If prisoners had cell phones "they could organize simultaneous riots in all 33 institutions if they wanted to." reports.

"Apparently they're not having too much trouble getting their hands on them. About 1,000 cell phones have been confiscated at the state's prisons in the past 12 months. Most cell phones apparently come from visitors, but how they get through the metal detector is a mystery.

... "While one obvious advantage of having a cell phone on the inside is being able to make calls yourself, there's another advantage. You could take a cell phone and rent it out to another inmate, for $20 dollars for five minutes.

Holding up a cell phone, Lt. Robin Bond says: "This is getting more lucrative than selling drugs. You can make more and it's not a felony."

Beyond being a money maker, the modern cell phone also poses a major security risk.

"If there were to be some type of escape plot, it could all be done via the internet, via instant messages," Bond said.

Making telephone calls from prison is considered a privilege. Inmates get about 15 minutes of collect calls every three days. All official calls are monitored or recorded. Cell phones are not."

emily | 3:58 PM | permalink

June 5, 2007

Australia. Prison mobile phone crackdown

Prisoners are facing a crackdown on the use of mobile phones, reports 2GB.

"Existing laws covering ownership or possession of a mobile in a jail will now be extended to use - with a two year maximum penalty.

Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says mobile phone use by prisoners can be a serious security risk.

“Mobile phones have been used in the past to intimidate Crown witnesses, to threaten correctional officers and overseas we’ve seen instances where mobile phones have been used to secure escapes and even detonate bombs,” Mr Hatzistergos said.

emily | 6:14 PM | permalink

May 2, 2007

Convict calls radio talk show from jail

According to the The Irish Times, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has ordered an inquiry after a convicted armed robber phoned a radio programme on a mobile phone from his prison cell.

"John Daly from Finglas, who is serving a nine-year sentence in the maximum security Portlaoise Prison, phoned RTÉ's LiveLine programme this morning.

Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Jim O'Keeffe it the incident was "absurd" and was "highly embarrassing" for Mr McDowell.

It is believed Daly has been moved to Cork Prison and has had a mobile phone confiscated."

emily | 8:56 AM | permalink

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