Prisoners' Illegal Cellphone Usage On The Rise

Thursday, 08 Sep 2011 01:34 PM

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In the past three years the number of cellphones smuggled into federal prisons has more than tripled, according to a Government Accountability Office report. In 2010 over 8,600 cellphones were seized from inmates, up from just 1,700 in 2008, The Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog reports.

Cellphone use by the nation’s 209,000 federal prisoners is prohibited. The phones are viewed as a security threat and prisoners can also use them to continue to commit crimes while behind bars. The GAO report noted that one inmate used a cellphone to run an identity-theft ring that made $254,000 worth of credit card charges, the Post reported.

Prison officials use X-ray machines and metal detectors to catch contraband such as cellphones but are testing cellphone tracking devices as well. The problem is not limited to federal prisons. The GAO found that prison officials seized 10,700 cellphones in California in 2010, up from 900 in 2007, the Post reported.

The phones are also used by inmates to avoid paying telephone charges on prison operated phones when they call family members. Federal prisons collected $74 million from such calls in 2010, the Post reported.

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