NPR reports on a growing problem inside prisons: prisoners with access to cell phones, occasionally even Blackberry's, typically smuggled in by corrupt prison guards ("Inmates smuggle in cell phones with ease," All Things Considered, Oct. 12). They cited a funny but telling Texas example:
Last month, a warden in Texas also got a call -- from the mother of one of his inmates. She was calling to complain that her son was getting poor cell-phone reception inside the prison.
"She was paying for the service, and she felt that she should get good service out of the prison," says John Moriarity, the inspector general of the Texas prison system. "That cell-phone company assured her it was within the coverage area, and she wanted to know why they were having some difficulty getting a good cell-phone signal out of the prison."
That cell phone was one of more than 300 that Texas prison officials have pulled out of inmates' cells in the past three years. Moriarity says it's not just happening in Texas and Maryland.
"I've spoken to some of my fellow [inspectors general] across the country, and I believe everybody's having a problem with it," he says.
In several criminal cases, inmates have used cell phones to run gangs operating outside of prison, to put hits out on people, to organize drug-smuggling operations and, in one case, trade gold bullion on international markets.
Most inmates use cell phones to talk with their families to avoid price gouging on collect calls, but they obviously pose a major security risk. Technology to identify cell phone signals would cost hundreds of thousands per prison unit - probably not a realistic option for a state that runs 106 prison facilities. Drugs and cash can be smuggled in through the mail or during inmate visits, NPR reports, but cell phones (and chargers) must be brought in by guards in order to get past metal detectors. So every cell phone captured represents a transaction involving a corrupt prison guard. NPR quoted a New Jersey inmate who said anyone could get a cell phone in prison:
"It's a simple process," he says. "It's not a big deal getting a cell phone."I'm willing to bet there's not a fired guard matching each of those cell phone confiscations in Texas prisons, but there should be. As Texas struggles to employ enough prison guards, the number of guards committing crimes in and out of prison continues to rise, so expect this problem to get worse.
[The prisoner], speaking from a prison pay phone, says inmates merely have to pay a one-time fee of $500 to a corrupt correctional officer.
"You have to understand that that is possible due to the level of corruption among the prison staff," [he] says. "If it wasn't for their corruption, it wouldn't be possible."