Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hundreds of cell phones still used by Texas inmates

I can't tell what, exactly, is the newshook for this story by Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman about cell phones smuggled into Texas prisons, but here are the data for smuggled cell phones two years after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice declared a "zero tolerance" policy on contraband: "This year, Texas investigators estimate that more than 800 cell phones have been confiscated from inside state prisons, compared with more than 900 during the same period last year. In 2008, the total was more than 1,000." That reduction clearly isn't much to brag about, but we're doing better than many other states:
By comparison, California prison officials announced last week that they have seized more than 7,000 smuggled cell phones this year.

Last year, South Carolina found more than 2,000 handsets and accessories. And Maryland, whose prison system is only a fraction of the size of Texas' system, seized 947 last year.
Sen. John Whitmire says "Texas ought to jam cell phones in our prisons and dare the federal government to do something about it," but it's pretty clear from the opposition by deep-pocketed cell phone companies the state would face litigation if they did that, and given the current law they'd almost certainly lose. Perhaps a more likely solution is being tried in Mississippi, where:
officials recently installed a limited access system that blocks cell phone calls unless the numbers of the phones making them at a prison are approved to do so. Other states have said the technology is too costly. Mississippi officials are paying for it by increasing the cost for convicts to make legal phone calls from land lines inside prisons.
Texas is already profiting from its relatively new in-prison phone system, so maybe they should take that money and apply it for a Mississippi-style system at the handful of units where they're most frequently finding cell phones and other contraband.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fine every CO 500 dollars per month and the contraband will stop.

sunray's wench said...

Those figures are subjective. It could be said that California is doing BETTER than Texas by finding 7000 cell phones - TDCJ may well have that many in circulation too, but have only found 800. I'm not saying that's the case, but it could be.

From what I've seen, Mike Ward usually only covers TDCJ stories when he can take a jab at the politicians. He's not really interested in making TDCJ a better place for anyone.

rodsmiht said...

what's really funny about it for about 50 bucks you can make a scrambled that will prohibit ANY cell phone from working...why don't prison's come equipped with one?

oh but wait. then the employees might have to work instead of spending 1/2 the day on the phone.

Doug Duncan said...

Let me see if I've got this right--technologically, we're behind Mississippi?
Wow.

Kenneth D. Franks said...

The system in place in jails is a for profit extremely expensive way for a relative to talk to someone usually by accepting a collect call. Limited calls at a decreased cost would cost less and do away with most of the contraband.

Texas Maverick said...

Great, make the inmates families pay for the people who break the rules by increasing the cost to talk to the ones who obey the rules. I agree with 08:02pm, the problem is not the inmates. and the calls from inmates can be either collect or prepaid with purchases at the commissary. Prepaid $0.23 per min - collect $0.36 per min. Families bear a huge burden; loss of income; stigma; commissary costs; limited contact visits; 15 min phone calls if they aren't locked down because there aren't enough CO. I could go on and on. so don't act like the inmate will pay for the jamming equipment. Families will pay. Everyone seems to forget that part of the system. Thanks for letting me vent. My only crime is loving someone who committed a "one-trial offense" and I pray each day for them to come home.

DLucas said...

Amen, Texas Maverick. I pay $37 dollars a month for 240 minutes of phone calls allowed by inmates that he uses to call me and the minutes are GONE by the 10th of the month! He is in there for leaving the state illegally (2 years after his parole ended) and not reporting to a parole officer before he left the state (he was never assigned another one when his quit!) The CO's are the people who are bringing in the contraband! Every family member who enters my husband's unit is searched! The inmates are 'strip-searched' so tell me how in the world would an inmate smuggle anything inside? Yes, they need to invest in jamming equipment for those cell phones and the contraband would stop, also increase the minutes an inmate can talk to family, like California has! Thanks for listening to my venting! LET THE LIGHT OFFENDERS GO AND TEXAS CAN SAVE MONEY!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Kenneth, TM, to be clear I didn't advocate raising rates. I said "Texas is already profiting from its relatively new in-prison phone system, so maybe they should take that money and apply it" to the technology used in Mississippi. However, I tend to agree that "Limited calls at a decreased cost would cost less and do away with most of the contraband."

Anonymous said...

I am just wondering where my sons cell phone is (jk). It is amazing to me that the co's get away with breaking the law. Release the nonviolent offenders and save a ton of money. Oh, that is common sense, something our gov is lacking.

Anonymous said...

As usual, it's the families that pay. I pay for the maximum calls my husband is allowed and the bill can run close to $70.00. He calls twice a week for 15 minutes and that plus a visit once a week is it. I don't bring in contraband, for one thing aside from being searched, if I did and was caught it is a felony plus restrict our communication in every way. In my years of visiting in more than one prison, the contraband comes in primarily from the prison employees. I've yet to see any meaningful statistics on how many employees TDCJ has caught or how they've been punished. I believe we've warehoused prisoners way beyond the criteria for parole and can't help but wonder if that doesn't have something to do with slave labor.

sunray's wench said...

"Limited calls at a decreased cost would cost less and do away with most of the contraband."

I disagree. Most of the contraband is not illegal cell phones, it is any number of other things from drugs and paper money to paper clips and having too many postage stamps. Reducing the cost of the calls will help most of the families (not all of us are able to receive phone calls, despite the inmate being eligible to make them) and may reduce the number of illegal cell phones in TDCJ, but it wont stop the contraband issue.

A more sensible approach by TDCJ to incarceration, and by the legislators to sentencing, would help more to reduce contraband.

Anonymous said...

The problem is this: Texas prisons run an in-house phone system "for-profit". I wonder if prison officials ever took the time to figure out how much money it costs familys to come and visit their incarcerated loved ones? Not only this aspect; but, commissary monies for fans, radios, hot pots, extra clothes to stay warm in the winter, and food stuffs to sustain an inmate from meal to meal? Don't sit there and try and tell me the food they feed is "wholesome and nutrious"...I ate the gruel for 19 years and I more than welcome you to sit down and have a few of those meals yourself.
I also know that there are a lot of illegal activity that goes on with cell phone use in prison, ie...gang hits, illegal business practices, and contraband drop off information. Many of these cell phones are just used to call loved ones though due to the outrageous prices of in-prison phone charges.
Officers that bring in cell phones and tobacco are not totally to blame. The pay scale the system provides it's officers help in this matter of contraband being introduced behind the walls. Let's be honest...Texas sucks when it comes to prison guard pay.
Bringing in private industry...allowing prisoners to make a weekly, honest wage would best work in many ways. But no...Texas officials would have their greedy hands into this also. All I can say is this: Keep doing what your doing and you are going to continue getting what you are getting...and God knows i pray you get it 100 fold!!!!!

R. Shackleford said...

Maybe Evercom ought to stop price gouging inmates, making phone calls affordable and reliable. As it is now, these sonsabitches charge $20 a phone call. If I were locked up, I'd want a cell phone too.

Anonymous said...

They gouge the families.

Anonymous said...

Sen. John Whitmire says "Texas ought to jam cell phones in our prisons and dare the federal government to do something about it,"

Dang, a representative of the state of Texas suggesting that the government should violate the law? "Say it ain't so Joe."

If he conspires with the folks at TDCJ, could he, should he, be indicted for conspiracy? :~)

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:41, I beat you to that punch! See here. :)

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