The cell phone in a "Cell" has become one of the greatest security risks. The phones being very small are easy to smuggle & hide.
The illegal smuggling of cell phone in correctional facility has been observed at many locations. In one case an inmate's mother sent him a cell phone through a post office box owned by a prison guard, who smuggled it into the facility for $400. The warden came to know of this when he received a complaint from the inmate's mother about bad cell-phone reception in her son's maximum-security prison.
John Moriarty, inspector general for the Texas Criminal Justice Department, has recorded more than 600 cell-phone smuggling cases in the past three years.
The country's third-largest prison system in Florida has confiscated 109 cell phones in one year, which is an increase of 25-30 percent increase from the previous year. According to The Los Angeles Times (Oct, 2009) prison officials confiscated 4,130 cell phone this year, more than in the previous three years combined.
Inmates in Sunshine State's prison believed to have used cell phones to smuggle crack cocaine and marijuana into one of Florida's higher-security units through prisoner squads working on roads. The raid have found cell phone at many places including in the prison, at the work camp and in transport vehicles running to and from work sites. In New York the cell phone part were hidden inside typewriter to evade X-ray scrutiny.
After a call from inmate on death row to Texas state senator John Whitmire , Texas governor got a search conducted in all 112 prisons of state and searched all 156,000 inmates. The search found 128 phones along with number of chargers, batteries, and SIM cards. With this by 2008 more than 1000 phones and related items were found in Texas prisons.
California corrections officials reported confiscating 2,809 cellphones in 2008. Mississippi officials found 1,861, and federal prison officials found 1,623.
With the phones getting advanced and smaller the security risk is also increasing. Some of the features like cameras, Internet access and GPS navigation can cause many problems including prison-break plots, drug trafficking, gang violence and harassment of former victims etc. The SIM card which can be deactivated to avoid detection pose additional problem.
The increase in drug smuggling has found strong links with cell phone use. Texas, to counter the menace, has allowed installation of landlines and made possession of mobile devices a crime. The cell phones signals can be jammed using jammers but it needs special regulation as installation of jammers is illegal and FCC can impose hefty fine for that. As per FCC the cell-phone jammers interfere with commercial enterprises' right to the spectrums they have purchased.
The frequent prison sweeps are the only answer as of now but it is time consuming and staff intensive. Even then the small devices like SIM cards are almost impossible to find as they can be hidden anywhere.
Police in Brazil reported to have foiled a plot to smuggle mobile phones into a high-security prison using a remotely-controlled model helicopter. The mini 1 meter long helicopter with basket attached to its base contained nine mobile phones wrapped in a disposable nappy. The four suspect arrested told that they were given $5,000 to buy and prepare the helicopter and another $5,000 were promised when they successfully land the model inside the prison walls. Another plot using pigeons to carry mobile phone parts over the walls of a jail was uncovered by Sao Paulo state prison guards.
Figure 1 Photo of toy helicopter
Police foil prison phone delivery, By Gary Duffy BBC News, Sao Paulo http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8067589.stm
The Latest Contraband, Forget the knife in a cake. The hottest illegal device behind bars these days is the cell phone.
By Roya Wolverson | Newsweek Web Exclusive