Cell Phones in Prison – Comments? Consensus?
Since the posting of our article “Cell Phones in Prison” on February 19, there have been comments in favor of limited cell phone use for inmates in prison and numerous comments in opposition to any cell phones for inmates in prison. Those who favor cell phones in prison, stress this will strengthen the ties between the inmate and his family. On the other hand, the opponents argue that cell phones in prison will be used by a substantial number of inmates for criminal activity.
As a former inmate, I have to agree with the latter that some inmates will take advantage of cell phones and use the cellphones for illegal activities. I also concur with the opinions that certain inmates will coerce the weaker inmates to give their cell phones up to be used by stronger and violent inmates. Greater emphasis should be placed upon reducing phone rates for the telephone land lines that are already available in the prisons for inmates. As discussed in our latest article about predatory telephone rates.
The following three comments demonstrate the differences of opinions.
1. Nicola – I couldn’t agree more with all your comments – however the issue of cell phones in prisons appears to be a global phenomenon, and all too often they are being used to NOT call their families and friends as mentioned above. For this reason we are working closely with prison services around the world to devise technology which will detect, re-active block any calls, text messages etc. to try and ensure that the public remains safe(r) as well as the prison officers who are tasked with looking after these individuals. We are aware that there are number of technologies out there which provide a ‘blanket coverage’ of the issue by jamming the signals however this is simply putting a band aid over the issue and not resolving the matter. Only by locating phones, removing them and keeping the areas ‘clean’ will hopefully in time encourage inmates that it is a waste of their time trying to communicate in unauthorized ways with the outside world and refocus their energies on more productive things.
2. By Frans – It is possible to provide cellphones for inmates and staff. First good reason is that it is a professional obligation to support contact with the outside world as much as possible. Second reason is that you can use these cellphones for contact between staff and inmates, to communicate about things like the daily programs (access to education, exercise, care and shop, for example) and you can even use it for security: you can spot where somebody is. In most countries, like mine, the law says that the contacts with the outside world have to take place in a “controlled way”. It is possible, as a prison, to be your own provider and put an “umbrella” over the prison to control your telecommunication. In Holland we are far away from that reality. Not because of Technology, but because of the fact that our repressive climate does not allow benefits for inmates or their families. We even cannot make it possible to let the children of inmates email their incarcerated mother or father. Our former liberal country gets beaten by the US, Russia and England on that matter…….
3. By Tony – Give me a cell phone in prison and I will find a way to make money with it, tell my victim or the family member what I think of them, get information on staff I can use against them, order hits on the outside, let it be known where a certain inmate is housed make nasty calls to people i don’t know just to pass the time and I may even order pizza! Prison is a place to provide correction for the inmate and safety to the community. When you have relationship problems with your kid because of what YOU did and where it landed you, maybe, just maybe you will make the connection: crime bad – family good.
By James–Cell phones are absolutely not required nor needed to facilitate contact between staff and inmates (offenders). CCTV, E-Mail Access (in some systems), and good old fashioned memo’s are still sufficient and efficient for communication within the prison environment. There is a little issue we refer to as Inmate Accountability…, (facility counts), which require the offender to be present before staff. Any money and/or funding toward this end, would be far better spent in pursuit of true rehabilitative programming. In theory (and in reality), any practice or modification, which extends the boundaries of an offender(s)/inmate(s) confinement, is essentially a furlough.… Read more »
I’ve read all the comments and I would have to say I agree with all those who spoke against cell phones for prisoners but more so with the former prisoner who spoke against having cell phones available to prisoners. Who would know better the horrible things that could take place should prisoners have access to a cellphone. And the increased workload on the correction officers to ensure that the other prisoners were safe, not to mention their own safety, would be astronomical at the least. I know this b/c, one, my husband is a correction officer and, two, my son… Read more »
By Jennifer–I personally do not agree with the idea of having cell phones inside prison systems. Prisons are not entertainment based facilities. Law breakers are put there to serve their time and hopefully become rehabilitated. I do agree with Ms. Sandra, no one in prison should feel like they are better then someone else because of the privilege given. There are regular phones in prisons and that is what should be used period.
Annys• Prison officers job is hard enough, take away a simple things like Tv, association it would cause anarchy, especially amongst the young offenders.
Phone call should be kept to the wing phone whereby it is monitored.
Sandra.. seeing inside them is not knowing how they run, or like many others that VISIT it is all a good show.
By Stephen–In the final paragraph of your post it would seem to suggest that you are in favour of cell phones in cells. Our experience would indicate that a significant number seized would indicate illegal activity on message content and the address details of those listed is not family driven. It is also a well known fact that HITS have been ordered and major drug deals and drug distribution has been organized by those in ‘secure custody’.There is a long way to go to educate, train and rehabilitate offenders in order to tackle recidivism. It is my opinion that education,… Read more »
By Stephen–NO unless for Visitor communication otherwise NO
Scrap cel phones for inmates.
Most def NOT in Favor!
By Ben–the &UK, regardless of scaremongering by NOMS and HMPS, the reality is that cell phones are used overwhelmingly to stay in touch with family and friends.
With access to official payphones being highly expensive and restricted, then cellphones offer a far cheaper and more convenient way of maintaining relationships.
Well, being the woman scorned, you can take this with a grain of salt but seriously, these guys have total access to cell phones, enough to absolutely ruin my life. Ive been a faithful soulmate to 997733 for 13 years. Due to my Catholic upbringing, I guess this makes me suseptible to sociopaths. We met in 2001, fell in love, lust, whatever, and due to my obligations to my dying mother and subsequent 4 elder patients I continued to believe what this man, Joe Bandy wrote to me and promised me and delivered to me when he was free. Now… Read more »
Martine • I actually think it depends on the national context and even on the type of jails we are talking about. However I also agree with your conclusion: the best way to fight it all off would be to install land phones within the cells with very cheap fares – in France one can rent a ‘box’ which includes tv, the internet plus unlimited calls to landline for…. less than 30 euros a month. I’m sure prison services could negotiate fares for the whole prison system if they really wanted to. Landlines within the cell would at least enable… Read more »
By Clarence–I think that there should not be any cell phones in prison because of security reasons. Prison is a place where you don’t want to go back to not a place where you have the luxuries of life just as someone struggling everyday to maintain on the outside.
By Ben–Or a differential response across the different security categories? g, prohibited in High Security but allowed in Open prisons?
It was a nonsense that In Open I was allowed to work outside several days a week, but had to hand in my mobile on returning each evening.
By Carol–Cell phones should not be allowed in prisons– they would be used by inmates to continue to manipulate people on the outside- they would still be able to sell drugs, start fights between gangs etc. Plus they would become commerce or a way to buy their way. or trade them for other things–not a good idea at all.
Charles–depends on which side of the fence you are on.. Whether it is the golden goose or a small control safety measure;somewhere there must be an uniform well known mandate. Things can always change with increased information. Everything said can and has been exploited some with success and some without success.
By David–“What the Department of Corrections wants you to believe…”? I’m sorry, but the individual in that article is still being manipulative and using nonsense numbers and phrases to try to make his point. “Thousands and thousands” of prisoners most likely to have contraband cell phones? If that’s the case a LOT of correctional officers are not doing their jobs. This person makes the very valid point that a prisoner’s family also “does time.” Very true. However, they are just another group of victims that the offender has made through their poor choices and bad decision-making process. For this offender… Read more »
By Kristin–Since when do inmates become experts on their own rehabilitation? Benjamin Franklin once said that the most cruel thing one man can do to another is make him comfortable in his poverty. Our efforts to combat recidivism should bear that in mind, while at the same time showing inmates that more comfortable circumstances are an attainable goal. As Mr. Buckner said above, better things should be earned. At my facility, inmates can make unmonitored calls to their lawyers on land line phones in housing units and the Legal Resource Center. All other calls are monitored. That is as it… Read more »
By Frans–It is not so strange that everybody who has suffered the destructive consequences of a repressive system like a prison, inmates and staff, knows that a clear and strict regime can give protection for everybody. I am not surprised that former inmates do’nt have a “pink” view on the matter. No reason to be optimistic about the tendencies amongst the prison-population. I must admit that it is easier to be optimistic when one can speak as a well-positioned and respected member of the middleclass. At the other hand there still are inmates, even quite a few on death row,… Read more »
By Frans–I like Roberts remarks funding education, healthy food and a good daily program. His remarks about “people who are not in the frontline” make clear how sensitive the matter is. Keeping the balance between creating a secure environment and giving inmates the chance to effectively prepare their return to society is incredibly difficult . As a prison director and former guard and super-intendant I know very well that this matter is directly connected with the security and well-being of the prison-staff. In practice, in the Dutch situation I have positive experiences with using cell-phones for certain categories of prisoners.… Read more »
robert• How about we define what sort of prisons we are talking about. As death row, institutions for criminally insane, sexual predators, prisoner with sadistic tendencies are not the same as someone who is in for fines let’s being realistic. I have encountered prisoner who would hurt, kill or abuse at any opportunity . Prisoners that have abused tortured and killed their own children. On the other hand a prisoner who was in the wrong place at the wrong time ,traffic accidents etc. It is not the same . Let’s say in the right conditions where prisoner are at a… Read more »
James • For all those posting on this discussion, please initiate a google search on Rayful Edmond, and intently read about his case. Once you’ve done that, consider what he could have done with a cell phone. Some of us (within this discussion) are approaching the matter in the spirit of altruism, without knowing the full danger of unmonitored inmate communication. I’m fully in favor of enhanced efforts geared toward treatment and reintegration. However, we must remember, the mission of corrections is and always will be, the protection of the public.
frans• An inmate can only have controlled communication with the outside world. That means that we check letters and have the possibility to listen to recorded phonecalls or even be present when somebody calls. We can separate inmates and their visitors physically by glass. The level of security is based on the risc profile of an inmate. As I said before: even the most restricted inmates can communicate within their network in many ways, without us knowing. Remember Steve McQueen in the classic movie Papillon: even when he was in a dark whole in the ground, totally isolated on Devilsisland,… Read more »
frans• Thank you, Bradley. I say a prison is a self-contained, institutional environment, where prison staff and inmates suffer from the same tendencies. They often do not communicate with each other. They speak in the presence of one another about one another as though neither can hear what the other is saying. They stop perceiving each other as human beings—human beings with families, children and specific, personal characteristics. The staff often treat the inmates in the same manner they feel treated by their boss; in other words, the culture of the prison is top-down. Prison is highly hierarchical, and as… Read more »
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