Increasing Numbers of Inmate Cell Phones Called “Huge Threat”


Pennsylvania drug kingpin Ronald Whethers used cell phones to run a narcotics empire from prison, leading to a state law prohibiting cell phones behind bars. Still, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, corrections officers at home and abroad are struggling with how to keep inmates from wreaking havoc by phone. “They’re pulling their hair out,” said Louis Garzarelli, a former U.S. Bureau of Prisons intelligence officer who teaches criminology at Mount Aloysius College. “They really don’t know what to do about it. The damage that is done is unaccountable. They don’t know how many are in there.”

Officials are seizing thousands of cell phones nationwide. Some are brought in by visitors, who may hide them in body cavities. Most are supplied by guards, often in exchange for bribes. The going price: $500. At Pennsylvania’s Graterford prison, four guards were indicted last year on federal charges of supplying cell phones and drugs to inmates in exchange for bribes. The newest threat behind bars is the SIM card, a tiny, portable memory chip that allows lots of prisoners to use a single phone. “Cell phones become a huge threat to [] the officers inside the prison, the prisoners themselves, and the public,” said Terry Bittner of EVI Technology, a Maryland company whose cell phone detection system is used in one Pennsylvania prison, some federal facilities, and elsewhere.


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