Perhaps thousands of U.S. prison inmates spend evenings chatting away on their cell phones, reports National Public Radio. More troubling than what the inmates are doing with the cell phones is how they got them in the first place. Last month, a warden in Texas got a call from the mother of an inmates to complain that her son was getting poor cell-phone reception inside the prison. That cell phone was one of more than 300 that Texas prison officials have pulled out of inmates’ cells in the past three years.
Some inmates have used cell phones to run gangs operating outside of prison, to put hits out on people, to organize drug-smuggling operations and, in one case, trade gold bullion on international markets. Former Maryland prison director Bill Sondervan says that in most cases, an inmate’s family or gang members set up a calling plan, pay the bills, and pay an officer to smuggle the phone in. Maryland-based EDO Corp., which does mostly classified work for the Defense Department and intelligence agencies, spent the last three years building a system to detect cell phone transmissions that could work in a prison.