The North Carolina Department of Correction this year has confiscated 140 cell phones that were found on inmates or stashed on prison grounds, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. They arrive by visitors who sneak them in, by inmates returning from work release and, in some cases, by staff looking to make a fast buck. A $25 phone can sell for as much as $500 behind bars, and inmates who have them can charge others for their use. Prisons director Boyd Bennett said the cell phones can be used mayhem in and out of prison. They can be used to set up attacks on inmates and staff, coordinate escapes, harass victims, and allow criminals to continue running criminal enterprises outside prison.
A gang leader in one prison used a cell phone to call inmates at another prison to give them the go-ahead to attack another inmate. This year, South Carolina prison officials have confiscated more than 1,800 phones or components such as batteries and chargers. North Carolina is trying to close off the cell phone pipeline with tighter checks of those entering and exiting prisons and by obtaining a 4-year-old chocolate lab who is being trained to sniff them out. A component within cell phones produces a unique scent. North Carolina prison officials didn’t begin tracking the number of cell phones until this year. The department has 40,000 inmates in 79 prisons.