Cell phone use inside prison walls - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Cell phone use inside prison walls

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

You may not be able to get the best of signal for a cell phone inside a prison cell, but the fact is, some inmates are getting just enough, which means current blocking systems aren't as effective as most people on the outside would like.

In 2010, nearly 4,500 cell phones were confiscated inside prisons across the state and the problem is on the rise.

During the last few months convicted murderer Lois Hudspeth was updating his Facebook account, playing games and even uploading pictures, all from behind bars at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.

Convicted murderer Jonathan Davis was reportedly doing some social networking of his own recently inside Parchman as well.

The facility launched a cell phone blocking system back in September of 2010, but critics say prison systems need to go a different route.

"You just can't mask the problem , you have to solve the problem by removing the hardware," said Terry Bittner who represents a company which specializes in cell phone detection systems which he says actually focus in on where the cell phones are and are typically far cheaper than the state's current systems.

"We incarcerate people and the general public believes that they're safe from them. What cell phones have done, we consider cell phones to be the most lethal weapon that you can get in to a facility," said Bittner.

It's also happening in smaller, county jails like the one in Harrison County. Back in 2008, pictures of inmates wearing strips were posted to a Myspace page, one of them was convicted murderer Larry Minter.

Warden Don Cabana said at the time, they were most likely posted from a cell phone.

"That probably sounds like something that's going to strike most people as how in the world can that happen, but it's not all that difficult. Cell phones are very small, they're fairly easy to conceal, they can be smuggled pretty easily," said Cabana.

Representatives with the Department of Corrections say cell phones are the most confiscated items and unmonitored communication can present numerous problems like witness intimidation, escape plans, murder plots, drug exchanges and even criminal activity inside prison walls.

"You're not going to stop all communications between inmates and the outside world, be it via paper or via a friend. What you're trying to do is make that path as difficult as possible," said Bittner.

Smuggling cell phones to inmates can be a profitable business, anywhere from $300 to $500 per phone. From 2007 to June of 2010, 26 people were arrested for doing just that, as well as 46 people who actually worked for the Department of Corrections.

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