Cell Phones in Prison?
The Huffington Post hosted a discussion about inmates having cell phones in prison. One inmate stated that most inmates would use the cell phones for contact with family members and not for criminal purposes. Although many inmates would use cell phones for family contacts, there is no doubt that a number of the inmates would use cell phones for criminal activity. As a former inmate, I see only serious security problems for the prison. It would be more beneficial to concentrate on the major problem of predatory phone rates as discussed in previous articles on Prisonpath.
See the following Huffington Post article:
Family members of criminals say that when their relatives are sentenced to prison, the entire family serves time. HuffPost Live’s Marc Lamont Hill hosted a discussion to explore what resources can help these families deal with their burdens.
For Jeff Brooks, lack of communication during his 16-year prison sentence negatively affected his relationship with his son.
“There are no cell phones in California state prison that are allowed,” Brooks said. “There’s thousands and thousands of guys who have cell phones just simply to keep contact with their families. And they constantly get caught and they get written up. They get more time.”
Some argue that cell phones give prisoners a chance to conduct crime outside, but Brooks disagrees.
“The idea that the department of corrections would want you to believe is that all these guys are all using it for criminality. When the fact of the matter is, all people are trying to do is stay connected with their families.”
I can’t help but agree with you. Even if a given inmate is only using a cell phone to call home, the odds of it getting into the hands of someone who will use it for criminal purposes are very high. Many security measures turn out to be excessive, but not this one. Additional Comments: James• The article mentions cell phones contributing to further criminal activity. However it fails to mention a very specific type of criminal activity, the intimidation and threatening of victims and/or witnesses. Any form of inmate communication that cannot be properly monitored and controlled should be… Read more »
I agree with the above statements. I served 25 years in a California prison and there is just nothing good that would come from it. What next, Facsimile (FAX) machines?
Over here in the UK, seizures of illegal mobile phones dropped considerably when landline phones were installed in all cells, which would appear to support the argument that most prisoners just want to be able to call home.
Mandy-I think if parental control was used on the cell phone that would be great, they only have certain phone numbers they call if the violate them in any way phone taken away for a period of no more than 6 months, no internet access calls only
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… Read more »
it makes sense that seizures of illegal mobile phones drop considerably when land line phones were installed in all cells, why would one break the rules to get and have an illegal phone when one is right there on the wall for you to use? Your line of thought does not appear to support the argument that most prisoners just want to be able to call home. Most prisoners are “able” to call home, most prisoners do not want others to hear what they have to say. Additional Comments: stephen • Not a good place to have a cell phone… Read more »
James • I’m curious about the cost(s) of such programs and how they are funded. My concerns are not based on cynicism, but entirely on institutional security. Additionally, how will these programs be monitored, and will it require additional staffing. Also, offenders with specialized skills will almost certainly find a way to exploit these measures. I applaud the effort toward reintegration, however the road leading to it, is paved with very good intentions. Benny • James, I must disagree with you. It is perfectly securable, it will be monitored and we are actualy saving staff. To discuss this in detail… Read more »
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… Read more »
By Steve–It’s no secret, all prison phone calls are recorded, so any criminal activity on the phones is likely to be intercepted either by prison staff or police intel teams. What this does mean is the demand by prisoners for mobile phones to maintain family contact is vastly reduced and so reduce the risk of access to mobiles being used by a minority for criminal activity
By Sandra • I don’t feel that inmates need a cell phone in jail. Many of them will use it for criminal activity if they have a chance to. If jail changed people, many of the inmates would not return to jail and some of them in jail still commit criminal acts. Many of them are in jail, prison, and houses of corrections for hurting or killing family members. If these people are so worried about seeing and talking to families, they should have thought about that before committing crimes that got them incarcerated. Inmates already have TVs, food in… Read more »
By Annys–Bradley I agree with your comments, as an ex-offender myself prisoners should not be allowed phones whilst serving a sentence, apart from those that have worked hard and have earned the right to gain Employment. This as we know enhances the chances of a successful re-integration back into our communities. As far as prison Education is concerned, I learns to count on my fingers when I was two.
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… Read more »
[…] Consensus? Published February 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm 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 […]
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 »
robert• I can imagine prisoners calling the newspaper who love to publish anything to increase sales. It is hard enough to monitor a few phones let alone one per prisoner. Give them programs etc if they had family support on the out side they most likely would not be in prison. There is not a day that I have worked in the prison where we do not hear prisoners threatening or insulting family, girlfriends and friends to bring money in for them. People who are not on the front line do not understand what its like . It seems these… Read more »
Well said Robert.
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 »
By Kristin–I think that the US should get rid of the seniority system in corrections, and base promotion and pay on performance. The seniority system guarantees that really talented people go elsewhere. It is most prevalent in the US in education and law enforcement. What those fields have in common is that they are far too expensive and they don’t work.
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 »
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 »
Jame • 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 phone calls 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 risk 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… Read more »
By James–Point taken.
By John–I thought “debtors prison” went out in the 1700’s under the Kings law in Europe. I am a landlord and sometimes it would be nice to have a completely unfair advantage over a tenant but the inhumanity, inequitable and unconstitutionality of this kind of law is outrageous and I am shocked that it has gone on for so long.
By Frans–It is doable and we do it every day. If a prison cannot separate groups of inmates and differentiate in levels of ” trust” and security it has a big problem.
By Sheik–Bradley , that’s why we have specific persons/inmates assign as orderlies or trustees ….
By Frans–I agree with James when I look at the situation over here. One of the most fascinating aspects of our work is, that you learn all the time and have to find new balances giving and taking space to inmates. You cannot trick a stonerock, but you can fool people as long as they are made out of flesh and blood. But without giving a 100 percent guaranty that nothing will happen in the future. I can say that my very professional staff is capable to differentiate in levels of trust and avoid severe violence. And they also keep… Read more »
By Michael–In the UK taking a cell/mobile phone into a prison is a criminal offense. Prisoners could use a phone to control a gang, taunt or intimidate witnesses, plan escapes or arrange other serious crimes.