Cell phones are a growing problem in prisons and jails, reports the Christian Science Monitor. In Texas a correctional officer recently was charged with bribery and drug possession after trying to smuggle a cell phone and heroin into a prison near Houston. A Texas law passed last year made it a felony to provide an inmate with a cell phone. “Cellular telephones are emerging as a major contraband item in prisons and jails across the country,” says Jess Maghan of the Forum for Comparative Correction. “And the incarcerated population is getting younger and angrier and less afraid of being punished – and very savvy about these devices.” In Tennessee, 15 cell phones were discovered at a correctional center in six weeks. In Colorado, a federal inmate and a correctional officer were charged with bilking a New York firm out of thousands of dollars using a cell phone. In Pennsylvania, a convicted drug dealer was charged with using a smuggled cellphone to operate his network from prison.
Cell phones are making their way into jails and prison stuffed inside mayonnaise jars, hidden in compost piles, shoved into the soles of shoes, slipped inside hollowed-out blocks of cheese. But the easiest way to obtain a cell phone is to pay a correctional officer to provide one. “The reason these guards are so susceptible to this type of misconduct is they are young, underpaid, not trained very well, and given too much unchecked power,” says Yolanda Torres of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas. “To be a prison guard in Texas, you aren’t required to have an education [or] work experience. You can go straight from making French fries at McDonalds to having control over a prison.”