Cell Phones in Prison: A Former Inmate Explains the Real Deal

Categories: Crime
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A former long-serving federal inmate living in South Florida says the real reason for the proliferation of cell phones in prisons has more to do with privately owned institutions gouging inmates and their families with ridiculously overpriced phone time than it does organized crime.

The ex-con -- who advocates for other political issues and asked that his name not be used here -- points out that phone calls made legally from prison are expensive and short.

Though they are banned, cell phones are prevalent in prison, with authorities confiscating tens of thousands of smuggled phones every year, according to a recent New York Times article. Prisoners use the phones to help control the flow of drugs both in and out of prisons, to organize protests, to set up Facebook pages, and in some cases, to conduct interviews with the media. Mostly, though, they use the phones to stay in touch with family members on the outside.

"Toward to end of my time in, cell phones began to appear in large numbers," says the local ex-con, who served more than two decades for nonviolent crimes. "The vast majority were used by inmates desperate to stay in touch with, and hold on to, their wives and children."

The calls were so expensive, this inmate could afford only one or two short calls to his family a week.

"If my wife, child, or a close friend were ill, I would blow the month's phone budget," he says.

According to the Times story, many of the phones are simply tossed over prison walls, and the phone bills are paid for by families. Prisons across the country are struggling to figure out a way to block phone services within prisons without violating FCC regulations.

From the Times:
 
In Oklahoma, a convicted killer was caught in November posting photographs on his Facebook page of drugs, knives and alcohol that had been smuggled into his cell. In 2009, gang members in a Maryland prison were caught using their smartphones to approve targets for robberies and even to order seafood and cigars.

Even closely watched prisoners are sneaking phones in. Last month, California prison guards said they had found a flip phone under Charles Manson's mattress.

The logical solution would be to keep all cellphones out of prison. But that is a war that is being lost, corrections officials say. Prisoners agree. "Almost everybody has a phone," said Mike, 33, an inmate at Smith State Prison in Georgia who, like other prisoners interviewed for this article, asked that his full name not be used for fear of retaliation. "Almost every phone is a smartphone. Almost everybody with a smartphone has a Facebook."
In this case, says the local ex-con, the real crime is the inflated cost of calls, which force concerned prisoners to opt for illicit forms of communication:

"The real cost of a call is pennies, but prisons make a huge profit from inmate phones. Most inmates can't afford to stay in touch with family. That is the root cause of the cell phone problem in prisons."
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23 comments
NCIC
NCIC

How about the FCC cap the rates at a reasonable rate, like, no more than $.50 per minute and then FORCE the cellular companies to block their own signals in the prisons.  Yep, the cell companies can actually create a "dead zone" in their own networks to prevent crime and riots from happening in prisons!

ladybug1027
ladybug1027

NO I THINK THE DOC NEED TO FIX A WAY TO SELL CELL PHONES OR CALLING CARDS ON THE STORE

ladybug1027
ladybug1027

LOOK I JUST GOT OUT OF SMITH IN DEC IT'S A BAD PLACE BUT THE INMATES MAKE IT THAT WAY

Ellrd5
Ellrd5

I dont blame the prisoners for having cell phones. The cost to families are outragous. We can hardly make it out here alone and then they want us to pay for these high cost phone bills. They start by telling you that it cost .50 cents, but by the time they add the initial charge, then taxes, the cost goes rocketing up. You cant put 20 or 30 dollars, the minimum is $50.00. I am disabled and that is so wrong. Im glad these guys can get the phones. After all, who do you think is getting them the phones? Probably the same people that work there. Anybody can be bought!!!!!

Tribalwolf
Tribalwolf

If the cost of the monitoring of the call is not paid for by the inmate and the familys then it will be paid for by the state...which is the taxpayer which would add millions to our financial burdens every year. we already pay for the meals, health care, clothes, and GED classes for them for crimes they commited. they did the crime they should sholder the burden of paying for there phone call monitoring.

an inmates angel
an inmates angel

I know that some use cell phones to do wrong but i also know that inmates use them to comfort a sick child and hold the extra nervous mother together at the ER., to hold the hand of the girlfriend during the lose of baby family member. Family use them to let the inmate know we are still here and by their side when they feel the prison system and everyone that works there is against them. Family also use them to make sure the inmate is recivcing the care they should and MOST DO NOT. Such as having a broke hand(2 weeks now) that has not been seen by an ortho doctor yet. If your hand was broke how long before you went to ortho doctor.With out the cell phone the family would not know about the broke hand or that the inmate needed help!!!!!

Brian
Brian

Inmates cannot legally use a cell phone in prison. Cell phones cannot take collect calls from prisons either. Collect Calls To Cell Phone This is the only company on the internet that can help families stay in touch legally.....

Brian
Brian

"The real cost of a call is pennies, but prisons make a huge profit from inmate phones. Most inmates can't afford to stay in touch with family. That is the root cause of the cell phone problem in prisons." 

This is a fact and why www.jailcalls.com is in business!

Dekalb
Dekalb

too many inmates  in united states  why?

Dryiuh
Dryiuh

most of them use cell phoned to stay in contact with their family  .i know 

Callmesane
Callmesane

wahh i never thought prisoners are allowed to have phones inside their cells. how come there are some who are enjoying their mobiles? and when phones are stolen, surely those that have iphoneinsurance  can have a new one i suppose. 

Hallbrooklyn89
Hallbrooklyn89

my boyfriend is locked up in Forrest city Ar and someone got caught with a cell phone and lied and said he had something to do with it now he is in the hole what do you think will happen?

Anon
Anon

As family of an incarcerated mother with a young daughter, the child should not have to lose her mother and family breaking up the family and bonds. Society is paying the price for all the broken families they have created incarcerating more citizens then any other civilized country in the world, making the U.S. #1 Jailer in the world. Who is picking up the tab for this destruction as America continues to destroy itself from within - while the profiteers stay in control?

Jlpaternoster
Jlpaternoster

It is interesting to have the convict's side of the story regarding phones at Smith. My son in law is a guard at Smith for about 6 months. he has seen more violence during this time than most guards had seen in their careers,i.e., stab wounds where the individual was gutted, stabbed in the neck, beatings with locks, etc. Cell phones are currency in the prison and if someone wants yours, they will take it any way they can. There may be individuals who want to call home but the majority of them are used to carry on the illegal behaviors that got them into prison in the first place. Don't want to believe it? Put on a blue uniform for a day or two and you will find out. The warden needs to be fired for not supporting the guards, who fear for their lives too, and their needs to be DISCIPLINE enforced instead of having the prison run by the inmates.

Guest
Guest

This is the most on target and truthful article I have seen posted so far on cell phones in prisons; Those in power would have the General Public believe cell phones are for conducting crime when the reality is they are for staying in touch with their families. Kudos to the writer & the ex con!!

StinkyPete
StinkyPete

Could you immagine your wife's rapist calling to say, "Hello, remember me?" Or sending her a digital photo to remind her of the momment they shared together?Yes, the cost of prison telephone calls is inflated to prevent such an occurrence, and to monitor the flow of information to prevent other breaches of security: drug smuggling, extortion, untold conspiracy and obviously escape.Possession of a cell phone by a convicted felon while he is in the prison system is dangerous like you don't want to believe. It's dilusional to assume they share the same values we have. All they want to do is to call home and say hi to mom? My ass. They will dismantle an institution with a hair pin and dental floss if you give them a chance, and they'll use every piece of it, and anything else you give them, against you as well.

Tribalwolf
Tribalwolf

How did he break his hand. A fight most likely. Then to stay out of the hole he hid the injury from Officers for as long as he could. When he finally got caught during a pat down he was sent to medical and now blames the prison for not taking care of a problem he never reported. Ya that sounds like what happened to me,,, wise up. I have seen it a hundred times.

an inmates angel
an inmates angel

Embarq PayPhone Service allows the family to put time and money on their cell phones for the inmate to call from the "wall phone"

Tribalwolf
Tribalwolf

since so much of the illegal activitys in prisons are arranged by phone, monitoring the calls is a must for the safety of the other inmates and the Officers working there. The "cost" of the call includes the manditory monitoring for the safety of all.  Your uninformed opinion of directing the blame on the prison is wrong, however I do believe that the phone company is the bad guy you are looking for

an inmates angel
an inmates angel

turn that around could immagine being locked away and your wife being raped and you couldn't even talk to her to clam her.

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