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Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Out of Control

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the how-else-can-they-play-angry-birds dept.

Crime 428

Hugh Pickens writes writes "KCRA reports that the number of contraband cell phones discovered in California state prisons has exploded as prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in on smuggled phones that can fetch between $200 and $800. Although the large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones, there have been documented cases of escape attempts, drug deals and conference calls coordinated via smuggled cell phones. 'The potential is there for the worst kind of activity,' says Folsom Prison Warden Rick Hill. Even Charles Manson has been caught with a cellphone smuggled to him. 'We know the problem is out of control,' says State Senator Alex Padilla, who has proposed making such smuggling illegal in hopes of stopping the continued rise of contraband cell phones in prison."

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Proposed? (4, Interesting)

Coy0t3 (62077) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103630)

Wait... does this mean that it's not illegal to smuggle certain things into prisons?

Re:Proposed? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103724)

Wait... does this mean that it's not illegal to smuggle certain things into prisons?

They can't keep cell phones and other items too, like drugs out of prisons. Out of PRISONS. Yet we really think we can have a War on (some) Drugs applied to the general population. Idiocy. Unlike a cell phone, drugs have a flexible shape, don't broadcast electromagnetic radiation, and don't have an attached account with somebody's name on it.

Re:Proposed? (0)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103904)

The weekend is coming up and you must have scored some of those newfangled pre-paid drugs. Lucky bastard.

Re:Proposed? (3, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103978)

Wait... does this mean that it's not illegal to smuggle certain things into prisons?

They can't keep cell phones and other items too, like drugs out of prisons. Out of PRISONS. Yet we really think we can have a War on (some) Drugs applied to the general population. Idiocy. Unlike a cell phone, drugs have a flexible shape, don't broadcast electromagnetic radiation, and don't have an attached account with somebody's name on it.

Prisons are designed to keep people in, not keep stuff out.

Re:Proposed? (3, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103798)

Wait... does this mean that it's not illegal to smuggle certain things into prisons?

In general there are three categories of laws. Infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. At the lower categories the penalty may only be a fine, maybe a relatively small one. Perhaps the legislation is upping the category and/or the penalty.

Re:Proposed? (4, Informative)

mellon (7048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103892)

You could RTFA... :)

It's not illegal to possess cell phones or bring them into California prisons, although it is illegal for federal prisons.

Re:Proposed? (5, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103910)

Perhaps the legislation is upping the category and/or the penalty.

I wonder why they would do that, given the known lack of correlation between the harshness of penalties and the occurence of crimes.

Texas, for example, has one of the highest murder rates in the US, and also has extremely harsh penalties, including the frequent use of killing convicted murderers.

North Dakota, in contrast, has one of the lowest murder rates in the US, and has never employed the practice of killing convicted murderers.

I don't know what the relevant difference is between Texas and North Dakota, but given the murder rates are anti-correlated with the harshness of the penalties it seems unlikely that the two are related at all. There is quite a bit of research to back this notion up, that after a certain point the marginal decline in a criminal behaviour for a marginal increase in penalty decreases, a fact that should come as no suprise to anyone who has been paying attention to ecnomics for, say, the past 200 years. The law of diminishing returns is a pretty fundamental result of human preference functions.

Now it may be that in the present case there are data to suggest that the point of diminishing returns has not been met with regard to cell phone smuggling in prisons, but the very first question that should be asked of people proposing legal changes of this kind is, "Where are the data to show that this new and harsher law will result in a reduction in the penalized behaviour sufficient to justify the change?"

Re:Proposed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103954)

the relevant difference is minorities.

Re:Proposed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104022)

Let's be realistic.

Texas is culturally diverse.

North Dakotan cultural diversity comes from either you're Swedish or Norwegian.

Cultural homogeneity leads to a peaceful society.

Texas' Murder rates (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104024)

I don't know what the relevant difference is between Texas and North Dakota, but given the murder rates are anti-correlated with the harshness of the penalties it seems unlikely that the two are related at all.

The "relevant difference" is blatantly obvious here, and I know this is going to sound racist as hell but it's the cold harsh truth.
Texas has large concentrated population centers (D/FW, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin) that are full of Black and Mexican gangs whose entire world is centered around violence. How many big cities full of Bloods, Crips, MS13 and Nortenos are there in North Dakota?

Re:Proposed? (1)

puterg33k (1920022) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103968)

Not if you're a real man!

Then again, that would suggest a real man could easly smuggle a HTC EVO in his butt o.O

Cell Phone Jammers? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103636)

Why not just install cell phone jammers in all prisons? Is there honestly any "right" to have cell phone signal in the prison?.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (5, Interesting)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103758)

Cell phone jammers are illegal. Federal law, state law can't override it.

Granted, the law could be changed (with an exception added for cell phone jammers in jails), but it hasn't happened yet. It might soon, if there's enough of a cry out for it.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103854)

True but Faraday cages are not. Lets just spend billions of dollars lining prisons with Faraday mesh.

A plus side to Faraday cages also is that at least if a massive solar storm ever does hit us, at least the prisoners cell phones will still work...

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (2)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103902)

That's a little extreme isn't it? It is cell phones we are trying to stop, not spies. Use some good boat hull paint and call it a day. The copper will lower the signal, they'll blame AT&T and we're done.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (3, Insightful)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103920)

The trouble with the Faraday solution is that it would also stop radios from working, which means communications between the guards inside the building and outside in the yard would be impossible.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (5, Interesting)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103872)

What about cellphone detectors. I’m sure there is a technology that can detect and triangulate the radiation spewing from those things. And they are probably less illegal than jammers.

I suspect a lot of the stuff that gets smuggled into prisons comes from or is aided by underpaid prison staff (I really think it’s amazing how little they make considering the risk they take) either directly or indirectly. I don’t see how this kind of stuff could make it in, in the quantities that it does, without at least a little help. Even if you came up with a good technical way to stop the cellphone problem, all it takes is one guard to look the other way, and it’s defeated.

Then again I’ve never been to prison nor been a corrections officer... so I admit I have no clue how stuff actually works there.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104034)

My mod points appear to have expired, otherwise you'd be on the recieving end by now. This seems like a fairly good idea. Even if the equipment builders hugely overcharge (And, on a government contract, they will) it's still cheaper than hireing more guards or renovating buildings with EM shielding.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103898)

They have materials that absorb cell signals. These materials are not illegal as they don't block the signal. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6479140.html [freepatentsonline.com]

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103952)

Illegal for Joe Public to block signals in public areas perhaps. But not for the Feds to block them in restricted areas.

Prisons don't tend to be very near private residences so there wouldn't be much issue of blocked area bleeding outside the walls of the prison. And the FCC can issue a waiver for certain cases.

There isn't any reason they can't do this in a *prison*.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103780)

Why not just install cell phone jammers in all prisons?

Because that would be a logical, one-shot solution that would end the problem. That's no good for a politician. They want an ongoing issue they can pull out from time to time, whenever they need a distraction. There's little profit for your buddies and political capital for yourself from solving problems; there's lots to be made from prolonging them.

They'll integrate the prison guards into the DHS and hire thousands more of them to look for cell phones before they'll do something as simple and effective as installing jammers.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103802)

Jammers? But that'll make them use other methods of communications which may be harder to tap, intercept or block on demand.

Why don't they just install cellphone towers specifically for prisons ;). If you do it right, the phones will always use your towers in preference to others.

If there are pesky laws against this maybe you could get away by having some "fine print" which "informs" the prisoners (who are unlikely to read it) that they are not allowed to use cellphones in the prison, and if they do, the comms may be tapped or even modified as the prison sees fit.

When opportunity knocks stop complaining about the noise.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104104)

some "fine print" which "informs" the prisoners (who are unlikely to read it)

And even unlikelier to be able to do anything about it.

Re:Cell Phone Jammers? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104110)

Why don't they just install cellphone towers specifically for prisons ;). If you do it right, the phones will always use your towers in preference to others.

Extending this principle: 1. Give out cell phones to any prisoner who wants one. Secretly configure them to talk only to a special tower you control (not even the guards can know about that part). 2. All calls on those phones will be wiretapped. (prisoners have a lot less 4th Amendment protection than folks out of prison) This solves a couple of problems at once - giving out cell phones dries up the black market and allows those who want to talk to their loved ones, but since you're wiretapping them anyone who's trying to organize and escape or crime actually unwittingly helps the police catch and prosecute their accomplices.

Break free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103640)

Nothing more inspiring than playing angry birds while stuck in a cell...

Great idea! (5, Funny)

sudnshok (136477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103642)

I'm sure legislation will fix the problem... after all, inmates are in jail because they FOLLOW laws! Politicians are morons.

Re:Great idea! (3, Insightful)

yincrash (854885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103710)

inmates get cellphones from people who are not in jail. internet commenters are morons.

Re:Great idea! (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103944)

Do you think people who are not in jail are forcing inmates to take or buy those phones? The inmate has to be a willing party in the process so I think sudnshok's rather clever point still stands.

Re:Great idea! (3)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103752)

I'm sure legislation will fix the problem... after all, inmates are in jail because they FOLLOW laws! Politicians are morons.

Note that the summary says "prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in". These suppliers are the weak link and are somewhat likely to respond to the legislation.

Re:Great idea! (2)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103966)

Note that the summary says "prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in". These suppliers are the weak link and are somewhat likely to respond to the legislation.

Right, so by increasing the penalties you are decreasing the competition, and therefore increasing the profit margins for those willing and able to continue the practice.

But of course fewer (and richer) smugglers does not in any way imply fewer smuggled cell phones, so it isn't clear why anyone would suggest harsher penalties in this case, other than maybe organized criminals who want to use the law to "persuade" the more casual competition to exit the market.

Only if you for some reason assume that "few smugglers" implies "less smuggling" would this position make any sense, but you'd have to be insane to believe that. It would be like claiming that the number of burgers sold has gone down since the '50's because back then there were zillions of independent burger joints but today the market is dominated by a few well-organized vendors like McDonald's.

Re:Great idea! (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103766)

I think the idea is to throw the people (like security guards) who supply inmates with cell phones in jail as well...

Re:Great idea! (1)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103810)

Isn't that where they are now?

Re:Great idea! (3, Insightful)

Hojima (1228978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103770)

Well of course it's not working, we haven't thrown enough money at it. Just like drugs.

-The legislators

Re:Great idea! (2, Informative)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103874)

Legislation tends to just add a force multiplier to an existing crime. For instance; Drug free school zones don't magically stop drugs from being sold, but they add a nice "and" to the existing charges, which in turn makes it harder to plead down.

In this case, legislation *is* needed. If I sneak a hundred cell phones into a prison at 800 bucks a pop, my only crime currently would be not declaring the additional $80,000 in income on my taxes. (Sorta like Al Capone. He was never nailed for bootlegging / extortion / murder, he was nailed for being a used furniture dealer who was making several hundred thousand dollars a year and not paying income tax on it.) As of now, the only person who gets punished is the inmate themselves. The smuggler did nothing illegal.

Re:Great idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103936)

The later part could be fixed by a law to prohibit people from stating that Politicians are morons.

Re:Great idea! (0)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103950)

Your not quite on track their. The legislation is needed to dissuade the guards and other workers from smuggling in the phones. After all they of all people ought to be following the law. I'm sure if they knew they could pass from jailer to inmate if they got caught it would have a chilling effect on currently rampant smuggling...

Worst? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103678)

The potential is there for the worst kind of activity,' says Folsom Prison Warden Rick Hill

Well, I guess someone could use one to trigger a release of lethal bacteria into the air killing us all. I expect mostly they're being used for sub-worst kinds of activity though.

A "problem?" (3, Interesting)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103696)

If they think that cell phones are a problem, they need to consider this situation carefully. Most/all cellphones are much larger than say a balloon filled with heroin. If they think that a cellphone is a "problem" and smuggling in a handheld device is easy, I wonder what they think of the drug situation. Also, the profit margin on bringing in a walnut-sized heroin balloon is orders of magnitude more profitable.

Re:A "problem?" (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103726)

Most/all cellphones are much larger than say a balloon

You must have had a terrible childhood!

Re:A "problem?" (0)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103790)

terrible? yes.
but profitable.
no pun intended

Re:A "problem?" (4, Informative)

MaggieL (10193) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103814)

A guard caught with a cell phone gets administrative punishment under union rules. A guard caught with drugs goes down for a felony and loses his job.

Re:A "problem?" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104020)

the real problem, actually, is that the existing, legal phone system inside armerica's prisons is grossly corrupt. prison phone system providers are given a monopoly, charge exorbitant rates (a 630% markup over normal residential prices) and then actually kickback money to prison officials and politicians to keep their sweet contracts (57.5% of profits to the state of new york, for example).

my source for these numbers is here [northcountrygazette.org]

add to that the fact that even if an inmate can get a prison job, the wages are usually in the dollar-or-less per hour range, sometimes as low as 20c/hr, and you have a situation where the legal phone system is financially unusable. the result is that the economic impulse to get a black market cellphone -- even a $200 one -- is strong.

if america really wanted to stop black market cellphones, they'd cancel verizon's prison phone contract and offer reasonably-priced access to phone systems to inmates.

my source for the prison wages info is: here [digitaljournal.com]

Re:A "problem?" (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104054)

I think the penalty for a cellphone is a tad different than for the heroin.

OR (3, Insightful)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103704)

Or.... don't let the signal from the towers penetrate to the prison? Surely the guards can do without when they're on duty?

Re:OR (4, Informative)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103986)

They kinda do that here in Florida. Some prisons have their own microcell that grabs the signal from any cell phone in use on the prison grounds. If you aren't using an authorized phone, the signal doesn't go out & the guards are alerted.

Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103732)

We have the highest paid prison guard union in the country and it still isn't enough.

Jam them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103748)

Wouldn't it be simpler to make cell phone useless within the prison perimeter? I know there would be technical challenges to doing that, and prison staff would have to do without too (they can use the regular phones), but it might be easier. It would probably be more effective than "making them illegal" (like that will stop people already in jail).

Another step would be to make regular phone easier and less restricted (i.e. more phones/hours), albeit still monitored. Then there would be less reason for having a cell phone to "stay in contact with loved ones".

Re:Jam them? (2)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103948)

Sure but who's going to pay to put up that many t-mobile towers?

jamming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103756)

Is it not possible to jam the cell phone signals? And anyway, the "cell" base station near the prison can listen to the calls, yeah?

Put them in a cage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103760)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage wouldn't be too hard to stop them from being effective ...

Why not just install some phones? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103776)

How about installing some 'regular' phones that inmates can use, but monitor all calls? "Hi honey, I miss, how're the kids?" calls are ignored/allowed, but "I need you to go WHACK that bitch!" calls result in punishment...

Re:Why not just install some phones? (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103832)

Because people are capable of talking in code, or just being subtle.

Re:Why not just install some phones? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103836)

Prisons have regular phones, that they charge exorbitant rates to use. This is about protecting a monopoly and gouging a segment of the population that nobody gives a damn about.

Re:Why not just install some phones? (1)

Graham J - XVI (1076671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103934)

dingdingding

Re:Why not just install some phones? (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103852)

How about installing some 'regular' phones that inmates can use, but monitor all calls?

That sounds very expensive, as in you have to hire people to listen to the calls and other people to double check or at least spot check the first group. Also, if a lifer does call someone and tell his buddies to kill someone, what are you going to do to them? So you can't give everyone access, but then you still have the worst of the cell phone problem having eliminated it only for those people who would normally not be a real problem.

Re:Why not just install some phones? (1)

r00t (33219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104028)

Also, if a lifer does call someone and tell his buddies to kill someone, what are you going to do to them?

Death penalty, obviously.

This would mean more if we had the balls to do it old-style of course. (stoning, flaying, crucification, burning, etc.)

Re:Why not just install some phones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103860)

This right here.
They gave up their right to privacy when they decided to break the law, for the terms they have been sentenced to.

Outside of those really smart people, it is very unlikely that your average inmate will have created some code to use with friends / family / "business" partners.

People break the rules, then you disallow them contact for a period of time.
Outright ban physical contact, as well as visual, for more serious cases. (as it should be)

Re:Why not just install some phones? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103868)

Because "honey, I miss you, kiss little Suzy for me." could mean "Green light to kill Suzy"

creators suggest 'library of truth' for congress (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103778)

known as a highly contagious pathogen, there have been outbreaks around the (ww)world

jammers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103788)

Why not just install cell jammers in prison?

This again? (1, Insightful)

kieran (20691) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103800)

Install jammers (probably with a whitelist of allowed phones) or STFU.

Re:This again? (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104010)

Install jammers (probably with a whitelist of allowed phones) or STFU.

But that would prevent criminal gangs from maximizing their smuggling profits after the casual competition is eliminated! You have to ask who benefits from a proposed legal change, and in this case it is obvious the only beneficiaries are the criminal organizations who will be willing and able to take the risk of continued smuggling.

The volume of smuggling will not change, but the number of smugglers will go down, increasing the profitability of the remaining smugglers by a great deal.

Installing jammers would do nothing like that, and so is obviously pointless!

Re:This again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104094)

+1 on the jammers.

Laws do not prevent things from happening, they only allow you to punish the perpetrators. This is exactly the same as thinking laws will protect the privacy of your email. If you want your email to be private, encrypt it!

It is NOT illegal?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103804)

WTF? I thought smuggling in even a bag of chips into a prison was illegal.

Re:It is NOT illegal?! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103924)

The one guy in prison that I've ever corresponded with pointed out that he was allowed to have TWO pieces of stationery, two envelopes, and two stamps at any given time. Apparently having any more than that supply was a *serious* infraction. He wasn't even in prison for anything violent. I can imagine that having a cell phone or anything else not approved (i.e., not issued to the prison by the prison) could lead to really serious consequences.

8th Amendment (5, Funny)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103806)

"there have been documented cases of escape attempts, drug deals and conference calls coordinated via smuggled cell phones."

Not conference calls! Anything but that! Isn't it bad enough that they're in jail? Now they're being subjected to conference calls. That is surely a violation of an inmate's rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

Re:8th Amendment (4, Funny)

phreakmonkey (548714) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104004)

Not conference calls! Anything but that! Isn't it bad enough that they're in jail? Now they're being subjected to conference calls. That is surely a violatin of an inmate's rights against cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought the same thing! I imagined this tough, tattoo-decorated guy on his smuggled cellphone, hunching down behind the cot so as not to be obvious...

[Boop-beep!]
"Hello, who just joined?"
"Uhh, this is Tommy 'The Blade', on the call..."

Re:8th Amendment (4, Funny)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104068)

"Hi Tommy, we're just waiting for a few more people to join."

"I've got time......"

Please Take My Money (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103820)

So now not only are we having our tax dollars wasted on a "war on drugs" we're also going to start a new "war on cellphones (in prison)".

Sounds absolutely fabulous

Re:Please Take My Money (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103912)

So now not only are we having our tax dollars wasted on a "war on drugs" we're also going to start a new "war on cellphones (in prison)".

Sounds absolutely fabulous

The line between "starting a war on cellphones in prison" and "proposing a law to it illegal to smuggle cellphones to prison inmates" is pretty clear and wide.

The attempt to turn this example of state legislators attempting to actually do their jobs into a "govmit wasting my hard-earned money" story is unjustified.

A better solution ... (5, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103824)

Stop screwing prisoners who try to use the prison phone to contact loved ones.

Prisons have been seeing their phones as a profit center lately, charging a dollar per minute or more to contact loved ones. And loved ones can't call the prisoner -- the prisoner has to make the call. And often they can't call cell phones, only land lines -- but not everybody has a land line any more.

Make the prices more reasonable, drop the "no cell phones" thing, and have some way for people to call the prisoners (or at least tell them to call home beyond sending them a letter) and the demand for cell phones will drop.

Beyond that, simply get a scanner that detects the frequencies used by cell phones, install a few of them around the prison, and when they go off if the system is properly designed it could tell a guard immediately and tell them approximately where the phone is in the jail.

Re:A better solution ... (3, Informative)

the_olo (160789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104012)

Better yet, make the prison a non-GSM zone, deinstalling BTS-es and/or screening/jamming the radio signals. Make the staff and inmates use landlines for phone communication.

Re:A better solution ... (4, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104032)

I used to work for a telephone company, calling people who had rang up too many charges. Half the time, the recipient was grateful to be blocked, as her husband/boyfriend in prison called her incessantly, as well as racked up hundreds of dollars in collect telephone call fees.

Re:A better solution ... (1, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104038)

Make the prices more reasonable, drop the "no cell phones" thing, and have some way for people to call the prisoners (or at least tell them to call home beyond sending them a letter) and the demand for cell phones will drop.

Dropping the restriction on cellular phones is not the answer, because they can be (and are) used for illegal activities and that should simply not be permitted while in prison.

Beyond that, simply get a scanner that detects the frequencies used by cell phones, install a few of them around the prison, and when they go off if the system is properly designed it could tell a guard immediately and tell them approximately where the phone is in the jail.

Better yet: a handful of microcells deployed in the prison could ensure that phones connect to them first and betray their precise location. But it would probably be sufficient simply to use jamming. Guards don't need cellphones while they're at work; they can receive emergency calls via the prison phone system, they don't need to be making personal calls on your time, and they can use radios to communicate with one another inside the prison in a way that won't provide a prisoner with a cellphone should they lose it or have it stolen.

I agree with what you say about prisons treating prisoners as a cost center, but our society is very much going the other direction, with more private prisons and even privatization of existing prisons: unabashed state-sponsored slavery.

Re:A better solution ... (3, Insightful)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104064)

That. If prison is "we'll take your social circle and replace them with all these other criminals and you don't get to have any contact with the people you knew", then we shouldn't be surprised when people exit prison as hardened and more-proficient criminals than when they entered.

The point of being in prison (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104078)

Being in prison is being isolated from the rest of the society. This is the purpose : if you don't want to be isolated from the rest of the society, especially your loved ones, don't break the law.

Re:A better solution ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104100)

This is just a symptom, a prison is meant to be a correction facility first and detention second. Cutting off peoples social contact isn't healthy, it's a very bad thing,

You should be thinking why the prisons are so full that they need to tax calls and rely on confiscated phones to make some extra money.

Deregulation (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103830)

A thought:

Stop making it difficult and expensive for inmates to make regular phone calls. Then the only people left wanting cell phones will be those who want it for criminal activities, which will make your investigations more effective (even if they are successful less often).

In addition, though I'm no economist, I have to wonder if that wouldn't cause the remaining cell phone prices to go up, hopefully out of the accessibility range of at least a few people who would use them for criminal purposes (discounting the idea that contacting your family in a manner not approved by the prison might be illegal).

That's the part I care about. Now, the rant:

As someone living in the U.S., I think we need a dialogue on what we believe prison should be *for*, especially if there's some data to back up various methods in light of our desired goals. For example, we know that there is a high rate of re-offence among people who have been in prison. How does restricting contact among family and friends affect that? Does it prevent the inmate from seeking connections anywhere but among fellow criminals? Does having access raise people's sense of injustice and make them more likely to re-offend? Is there an interaction between this and some other social factor?

This dialogue needs to extend to treatment of prisoners. What do we really want the outcome to be? Is it overall better for our society to focus on discouraging people to go to prison, rehabilitation once they are there, or a combination (and in what proportions?).

Perhaps most importantly, the dialogue needs to contain the topic of whether the current system is working, and if the outcomes we get are on par with our desires and what we see in other countries.

m!

Re:Deregulation (4, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103962)

Your rant is spot on. Unfortunately, shouting about being "tough on crime" leads to getting elected, which leads to the "lock them in jail and make jail Hell on Earth" attitude.

Of course, that does nothing to actually rehabilitate criminals or actually reduce crime -- it just makes you look good come election time. Combine that with a prison system that mostly exists to increase its own profits (q.v. Arizona SB1070) and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Re:Deregulation (1)

HBI (604924) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104074)

If the death penalty was executed (heh heh) in a reasonable timeframe - ie, without a gazillion appeals and stays, then you'd probably find conservatives more willing to discuss lightening up on prison treatment.

It's a Gordian knot - as long as the ACLU and the Left keep fucking up the system to protest the death penalty, you'll get no progress on this front.

Re:Deregulation (3, Informative)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104106)

You are correct.

The USA has by far the highest percentage of it's population in prison, the longest and toughest penalties (Including the death penalty!) of anywhere in the civilized world.

It also has some of the highest crime and murder rates in the world.

But statistics doesn't get you votes.

Don't capture phones, capture the concersations! (3, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103838)

I think the government should not try to stop these smuggled cell phones. Instead it should set up a cell tower and capture all communications. Phones registered to prison guards and verified may be exempted from this surveillance. Knowing how dumb criminals are, we are sure to gather tons of incriminating evidence even if they know they are being monitored.

Re:Don't capture phones, capture the concersations (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103956)

The problem is, what happens if someone else (not a prisoner, not a guard) is near the facility and their phone starts communicating with the prison's tower? Monitoring their conversation would be an inadvertent violation of their rights. There would be a great potential for liability, right down to the point where people would *try* to make this happen just so they could sue.

Re:Don't capture phones, capture the concersations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104042)

Cell towers can detect the distance of the phone to them and reject the call. Put it in the centre of the prison, and ensure that the call rejection happens if the phone is off the property. Yes, there'll be a few dead spots. It's prison. Not a funfair.

Re:Don't capture phones, capture the concersations (1)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104086)

Post signs saying "phone conversations not allowed near prison." After that, the situation is much like a suspects friend borrowing his tapped phone to make an unrelated personal call - it'll be picked up and that's the way it goes. It should be deleted and be in-admissible for any unrelated case.

Re:Don't capture phones, capture the concersations (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104118)

A few sensors, some triangulation... could easily locate a phone with sub-meter precision to determine if it's inside prison walls or not. Expensive, though.

Easy solution (0)

lpchouinard (1408475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103848)

Install signal jammers? Will probably cost much less than trying to stop the smugling...

Re:Easy solution (1, Insightful)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103884)

you just don't understand the way the system works. You need to make it illegal to smuggle stuff in so even more people are sent to jail, thus increasing your free labor centers' profit.

Anyone surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103938)

After all ... it's called a cell phone ...

Seems like an easy solution (0)

ryanw (131814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103964)

Jam wifi & cellphone frequencies or put material on the outer walls to not allow the frequencies in.

Cell Phone Blues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35103982)

Well, I hear that train a-comin, it's rollin' around the bend, and I ain't seen the sunsh......

Oh, hang on a sec, I need to take this.

Dammit (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103992)

First they take away my Dungeons and Dragons and now it's my Cellphone. What next discourage urban exploration on prison grounds?

Not Jelly (0)

J4 (449) | more than 3 years ago | (#35103994)

How about they jam cell frequencies inside the prison. Don't they do that is some movie theatres?

It is opportunity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104030)

It is opportunity not a problem, you have convicted people that are using a phone. Put a BTS in a prison and scramble all other signals. You can record and listen to every conversation.

Intercept call - prevent next crime - simple!

There is a no Jamming solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104056)

They could use a low level microwave emission devices tuned to be optimally absorbed by cell phones antennae to purge each cell block and require prisoners to walk through a field or choose to remove all clothes which will exposed and to submit to a cavity search. Visitors can be asked to pass through a field or they will need to stay behind glass during visits. The devices would be placed at various passages to make it harder for such items to move. The electronics in phones would be destroyed by such a device while not affecting a person or most ordinary items in a cell, anything special that might be prone to react like Televisions, can always be taken out examined and returned. This technology would burn antennae they cannot protect the phones because in so doing you block its reception so using spot scans means at some point they will be fried. In addition, the protective devices they would need to make would scream on metal detectors so they could not hide them in cells easily.

9/11? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104066)

doesn't everyone remember how the cellphone companies were able to locate cellphones in the rubble of 9/11, even while they were turned off? Maybe bring some of that tech into play?

If you can't beat 'em, hack 'em. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104070)

This cries out for prisons setting up open source GSM cells [makezine.com] .

Now to find a CDMA solution. That, they may have to rely on the commercial manufacturers, but with a bit of work and some money, prisons could run their own cell networks and if nothing else listen in on the inmates' plans. Could be worse. Actually, it IS worse.

We can't seem to keep them out of the prisons, so just subvert them. I know this continues a war of escalation, but that's inevitable.

Smuggling vs. Possession - Clarification (1)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 3 years ago | (#35104082)

The summary and TFA refer to smuggling cell phones which is techincally correct. It is currently a crime for inmates to possess a cell phone and it is a crime to provide an inmate with a cell phone.

However, the proposed bill/law would make is a crime for ANYBODY to possess a phone inside of a California Department of Corrections facility. This is a huge difference for prison employees. Guards, nurses, adminstrators, maintainence, possibly even delivery drivers will not longer be allowed to carry personal cell phones.

We can agree that this is a problem. The soilution is up for debate. Employees and everyone entering a facility are already subject to TSA type searches, but personal cell phones are allowed. Even if they "banned" personal cell phones, I'm sure they would still get through just like the mass quantities of commercial alcohol and illicit drugs.

The most effective measure would be to install cell phone jammers in the facilities. Keep the human element out of the equation.

it will never stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35104120)

as long as the prison/jail itself is profiting from the super over-inflated cost of making a phone call to family members.
yes, those services are outsourced to some shitty company, such as offenderconnect.com, but they give a cut back to the prison system.
not only is the service grossly bad, the restrictions and COST to make a call is outrageous.

i personally could afford the over priced calls.... but most of the families during "visiting hours" would tell me they couldn't afford to send money either for "Canteen Money" or Telephone Calls, not both.

When a coffee is like $7-$8 and Ramen Noodles are like $5, do you think they can afford a phone call for $3?

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