Thursday, October 19, 2006

Texas prison guards smuggle cell phones to inmates

More than three hundred cell phones have been confiscated in Texas prisons in recent years, but officials say that's just a fraction of prisoners using the devices while they're incarcerated.

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."

[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."

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.

18 comments:

sunray's wench said...

People need to be reminding their incarcerated loved ones that if they get caught with a cell phone or even a sim card, they risk having 40 years added to their current sentence. It's just simply not worth the risk.

However, I can see the temptation, when inmates are restricted from calling their families in such a draconian way as TDCJ allows. My fiance has been shuttled between hospital Galveston, Estelle, and Coffield over the past 2 weeks, he was supposed to have a hernia operation but for some reason it was cancelled and no one at Estelle thought to request his transfer back to Galveston as the doctor there noted in the medical notes. If he'd been able to call and let us know where he was and what had happened, we'd have all got a lot more sleep recently.

Anonymous said...

40 years is ridiculous considering the problem is really corrupt guards. As Christ said, take the beam out of thine own eye, then you will see clearly to take the mote out of your brothers.

Michael said...

It's a third degree felony, but since all prisoners -- by definition -- have at least one felony, it can be enhanced to a second degree. Of course, many, many prisoners have priors to spare, so they're often looking at 25-99 for any prison case. In addition to that, since the case was picked up in prison, any resulting sentence will be stacked. The 40 year sentence is real and came from a Brazoria County jury.

sunray's wench said...

yup, that's the case I was refering to Michael, and if I remember rightly, the CO involved got 4 years.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Wow, that's unreal. You know, if they really wanted to stop this using "tuff" laws, those sentences would be reversed.

800 pound gorilla said...

They really need to work on improving cell phone service in prisons. BTW, if they gave cell phones w/bugs imbedded to inmates - with better cell phone service a side effect might be getting cohorts outside prison convicted of various crimes.

The point of my cynical comment was that we could get better results if we spent less resources on micromanaging other peoples' lives. We have created too many opportunities for corruption and criminal conduct with our nanny state mentality.

sunray's wench said...

The whole thing is rediculous. Jails allow phone calls, the phone services pay for themselves and then some ~ it would MAKE TDCJ MONEY to install a phone service for inmates. The only reason I've ever seen from TDCJ is that they wish to protect the families of inmates from high collect charges on their phone bills. Very thoughtful I'm sure, but explain that to a 2 year old who cant hear her daddy's voice and isnt old enough to write to him or read his letters to her. Or for the countless families like us who get snippets of information and are then left to wonder what the hel is going on with their loved one (I have had no response from the unit or from the Health Services Professional Standards dept of the Ombudsman's Office today, and I'm slightly pissed off at TDCJ right now).

I accept that some inmates would abuse the system if phones were in place, but for goodness sake, stop beating us all with a ten-foot plank when one or two step out of line.

pinecone64 said...

We had a Chaplains wife who brought every thing she could for her pets (inmates) on the unit. She even arranged for her daughter to marry one of the inmates. They had private visits in the Chapel in a small office. She was finally found out after her ex son in law told the warden.
I told the warden someting was wrong and the Chaplain did not listen to me. Because I went to the Warden the Chaplain worte a letter telling me I could not come back on the Unit. It was 6 months later before the ex son inlaw told the warden what was going on. The Chaplain and his wife had married their Daughter at the Unit. But I never received permission to go back on the Unit. A case where I did nothing wrong but was denied the right to minister on the unit all because I told the warden the truth.. Yes I would do it again, it would only be a matter of time before The Chaplains wife had a gun for them. A sad but true story. One night the Chaplain through the keys at her (his wife) and said here you run the Chapel. He was not fired because he was good and only liked a few years till retirement. She was never allowed on the unit again. (I wonder)
Me I still pay for what a Chaplains wife did and so do the people we ministered to. This is just a short part of the story. The violations are many. So not only do the gurards do things wrong but also a Chaplain and his wife at TDJC UNIT.

Anonymous said...

This is so crazy...but it is so true. I was on a chatline last night because I was beyond bored, and I met this really really extremely great guy. But one problem, HE WAS IN PRISON!!! He told me right out the gate that he was in prison and dirty cops and guards bring the phones in...I was in shock, because to know someone is in prison on a chatline is so weird...He has 3 more years to go after already serving 11 years...I hope he doesn't get in trouble! He seems like a cool guy! Oh but sooo not for me! Lol

Chatta said...

$500? I guess this article is dated. Try $100 for a prepaid phone. Ipods are starting to get smuggled in now also.

Anonymous said...

i think people should mind their own buisness...i feel like they already did their crime n who r we to judge them they want to be free jus like us know how there loved ones are doing they have wives kids brothers sisters moms dads cousins etc..yea they commited a crime but who are we to judge i think its good deed whats so wrong with having a cell phone?????it is stupid of that inmate to call a senator from texas thats dumb he really needs to sit down and analize im jus saying the state is wasting more money with these lockdowns ...

Anonymous said...

These inmates should note have phones or any other technology. I understand that they want to communicate with their famlies TDCJ do try to provide safe ways for that to happen.If they cared so much for there families they shouldn't have done the crime.This one offender in Texas murder 4 people I am pretty sure that those four indiviuals would love to talk to their families. TDCJ need to up standards and pay for CO's maybe they will be a more ethical @ work.

Anonymous said...

Texas Corrections suck.

One Warden in Gatesville was fired for stealing the money families would pay for cheap Polaroids that the prison charges $3 a picture for.
Another crime by the prisons was the Animal cages they would keep women in ( in the hOT sun with NO shade!) when they could not WORK in the blistering heat of Texas summer!
BOTH those cases are documented and can be found on the internet.
Does anyone care? Any of you concerned citizens? How dare you speak of a multiple murder and condemn all inmates to the same punishment.

The inmates have no AC or HEAT in weather. The guards always say it is "broken" and needs parts...every year, every time.
I'm sick of it. Not to mention the queer guards male and female.

A prison guard who was put in a position of representing inmate rights was fired recently for bringing in lingerie for a female inmate and having sex with her. Sick.

These People( inmates) need decent living conditions. Texas is WAY wrong in the way it treats these people. Who of you whining complainers knows of losing your freedom or dignity of being strip searched daily, and having your ass looked up by some queer or sexual predator guard?

I hate the decline of America...and the human race on the whole.
God is the answer..and ONLY God.

The guards are guilty of the cellphone activity, yet, even right now the poor inmates are on "lockdown" and can only sit in overcrowded dorms for 2 -4 weeks.

Wake up people!! Prison is NOT fun. It is hell. But Texas does not have to curse itself by over-depriving these poor people.

PS Most prisoners were abused by family/ friends before a crime was committed. No one loved them enough to help them...so they fell.

I personally support a friend who is in prison , and has been for 5 years. Only 18 years to go. Yes, it is hard. But it helps make prison liveable. Anybody checked the prison suicide rate? Of course not.

Anonymous said...

ITS NOT JUST GUARDS AND THANK YOU I’M AN OFFICER
I DON’T NOW NOR HAVE I EVER CARRIED IN ANYTHING TO AN INMATE.

TEACHERS, COMMISARRY WORKERS, MAINTANICE STAFF, MEDICAL PERSONAL, VISITORS, DRUGT TREATMENT STAFF AND DELEVIERY DRIVERS THERE ARE ALLOT OF WAYS CONTRABAND GETS IN.
YES I ADMIT IT DOSE COME IN THROUGH STUPID AND I SAY THAT LOOSLEY WANNNABE GUARDS THAT THE STATE HIRES WITHOUT DOING A THROUGH BACKGROUND CHECK ON TO FIND OUT THAT THIS NEW IDIOT WENT TO SCHOOL WITH THE INMATE HE NOW WATCHES OR LIVED NEXT DOOR TO OR MAYBE ITS A WEAK PEARSON WHO JUST WANTS TO FALL IN LOVE WITH ANYONE A BETTER PYSH. EVALU. IS NEEDED.
BUT TRUST ME ITS NOT JUST GUARDS.
PLEASE GIVE SOME OF US THE RESPECT WE DESERVE I’M AN OFFICER OF 20 YEARS WHO HAS NEVER EVEN GIVEN A PEICE OF GUM TO AN INMATE I'VE EARNED IT.
TEXAS SHOULD NOT ONLY FIRE THE IDIOT BUT PRESS CHARGES ON HIM/ HER , BUT ALSO THE INMATE SHOULD BE PUNISHED ACCORDINDLY AND HARSHLY.
THIS IS WHERE WE ALL DISAGREE SEE THE PUBLIC SAYS OH WERE TO HARSH ON THEM JUST LIKE WITH OUR KIDS DONT SPANK THEM BUT WHEN THEY LOOK AT YOU AND LAUGH IN YOUR FACE AND SAY YOU CANT DO ANYTHING TO THEM. GO JUMP IN THE CREEK.( ONLY IN A LOT WORSE TERMS )THE PUBLIC BECAUSE ITS A LOVED ONE OF YOURS YOU JUST WANT US TO GIVE THEM A TIME OUT.
MAKE UP YOUR MIND TEXANS GIVES US SOME STRENTH TO DO WHAT YOU WANT. BUT MAKE IT FAIR.
EVERY DAY OFFICERS ARE THREATENED BY GANG MEMBERS AND WE ARE TOLD OH YOUR MAKING MORE OUT OF IT THEN WHAT IT REALLY IS. OR WERE PUSHED AND ITS OH THAT WAS INCIDENTEL CONTACT. ONE PHONE CALL TO A SENATOR AND THE WHOLE STATE GETS LOCKED DOWN. AND IT’S THE GUARDS FAULT. WHY NOT BLAME THE MAKER OF THE CELL PHONE OR THE CAR THAT SOMEONE USED TO DRIVE IT THERE? DID ALL 13 PHONES COME FROME THESE GUARDS? IF NOT HOW DID THEY GET IN?
TEXAS IS ABOUT ACCOUNTABILLITY I WANT IT PRINTED EACH ONE HOW IT GOT IN ... WHO THE PHONE BELONGED TO?

Anonymous said...

the guard above is right. on a daily basis we are tried and pushed to the limit. threatened, assualted, and sometimes killed. yet we need to help these "poor people"? many times guards are lured into bringing in contraband to inmates because the state simply does not pay well. i myself have also never given anything to an inmate and there are many other tdcj officers doing the same. there are many things the state of texas needs to work on and fix. but helping these "poor people" is not one of them!

Anonymous said...

For the person who said prisons do not have heaters or ac...I don't know where you got your information...but the prison I work at has heat...and huge fans in the dayrooms... and another thing, you take their sides cause that's all you want to hear. You don't hear our side. You don't want to hear it. We get threatened, we get raped, we get beat, we get killed and jacked off on (rude way of putting it, but its the only way). And who do you think does that? Your so called "poor people". The state of Texas describes an inmate as a defenseless human being...defenseless my butt. If they were so defenseless...one of our officers wouldn't have gotten the crap beat out of him last week. And about a year ago, we had an officer loose his sight due to a crushed orbital socket. One of your poor defenseless human beings did that because another officer wrote him a case. It makes me sick to think people back these convicts. I understand we have no right to judge them, but we should have a right to defend outselves. Sadly in the prison systems, an officer does not have that right. The previous officer is correct...they laugh in our face because they know they have more rights then we do. Last week the offender who assaulted that officer spent three days in PHD and was let back into general population. They gave that inmate the right to laugh in that guard's face. Is that right? Now that inmate knows he can get away with beating the crap out of an officer... I also understand that some inmates do not deserve to be in prison...or are only in there for possession charges...but does that give them the right to act like total idiots? Well in most prisons...you would say yes...and that is sad. For the families who have an incarcerated loved one who does not fall into that category I am sorry for being rude, But all ya'll know is what they say. They don't tell you how they treat us. I don't ask for your respect, all I ask for is your understanding on what we go through on a day to day basis. I'm not a bad boss. I give them what they need, what they are entitled to, and nothing more nothing less. Now for the guards who bring in contraband for inmates...I hope it stays on your consience for a long time. I hope that one day when your kids ask you why you lost your job or why you yourself are now in prison...I hope you're able to look them in the eyes and tell them how that inmate was more important then them, how that inmate meant so much more to you then them...all I have to say is good luck with that. And to sunray...I'm sorry to hear about ur fiance...After all the crap I just talked I will say one thing. That is not neccessarily TDCJ. UTMB is responsible for the transfers and taking care of ill inmates. TDCJ and UTMB are at a standstill right now with what all we as officers are allowed to do with an ill inmate. We are not allowed to give any type of medical treatment to an offender due to the lack of training we are given in that field. Time for me to get off my soap box. Sorry to those I have offended. I just hope you hold a better understanding as to where we are coming from. Thank you and God Bless you and yours.

Anonymous said...

So just because guards do not get paid enough, that gives them the right to bump up their income by bringing in contraband? In that case, when I worked at Wal*Mart I should have given myself a little boost by stealing some merchandise. Wrong is wrong, no excuses

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Inmates should know the consequences of their actions, so if they can't talk to their family because of a phone bill the family will get then that's their problem. They get what they deserve. and if they get caught with a cell phone, they know what will happen if they get caught.