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Smartphones smuggled into prison

Can you hear me now?

“Whole body” scanning to prevent jailhouse smuggling of contraband such as cell phones could violate the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
“Whole body” scanning to prevent jailhouse smuggling of contraband such as cell phones could violate the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

Gone is the era when hacksaws were smuggled into prisons via cakes and other baked goods produced by wives and grandmothers. These days, the contraband items of choice are smartphones and the tiny subscriber identification modules, known as SIM cards, that make them operable. So reports a newly released audit of federal lockups by the Justice Department’s office of the Inspector General.

“An inmate with a cell phone, particularly a smartphone, can carry out criminal activities undetected, including threatening and intimidating witnesses, victims, and public officials and coordinating contraband smuggling and escape attempts,” says the report. “Inmates, each using their own SIM card, regularly share cell phones.”

The consequences can be fatal. “In February 2013, a Correctional Officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, was shot and killed while driving home from the facility in what authorities believe was inmate-involved retaliation related to his investigations into cell phone smuggling.”

There is little public information regarding goings-on inside the Bureau of Prison’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego, but the heavily redacted audit reveals a host of system-wide problems, including “an inmate warehouse worker who attempted to introduce contraband concealed in cereal boxes into a high security institution.”

Prison policy provides for pat-down inspections of staffers, who may be especially tempted to smuggle smartphones and SIM cards for big-money bribes. “However, the policy did not prescribe any required frequency for conducting random pat searches, resulting in what we found to be infrequent staff pat searches of varying duration. It also allowed staff to possess and use within institutions items, such as tobacco, that are prohibited for inmates.”

Potential solutions have raised fresh questions. New “whole-body scanners,” says the audit, “can detect objects concealed in anterior and posterior body cavities.” But “incorrect implementation of the [redacted] when the officer and inmates are of different genders is particularly problematic because it can affect…compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.” In addition, some staffers, according to the document, were found to be “unaware of the prohibition on inmates viewing their images, which can compromise security operations.”

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“Whole body” scanning to prevent jailhouse smuggling of contraband such as cell phones could violate the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
“Whole body” scanning to prevent jailhouse smuggling of contraband such as cell phones could violate the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

Gone is the era when hacksaws were smuggled into prisons via cakes and other baked goods produced by wives and grandmothers. These days, the contraband items of choice are smartphones and the tiny subscriber identification modules, known as SIM cards, that make them operable. So reports a newly released audit of federal lockups by the Justice Department’s office of the Inspector General.

“An inmate with a cell phone, particularly a smartphone, can carry out criminal activities undetected, including threatening and intimidating witnesses, victims, and public officials and coordinating contraband smuggling and escape attempts,” says the report. “Inmates, each using their own SIM card, regularly share cell phones.”

The consequences can be fatal. “In February 2013, a Correctional Officer at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, was shot and killed while driving home from the facility in what authorities believe was inmate-involved retaliation related to his investigations into cell phone smuggling.”

There is little public information regarding goings-on inside the Bureau of Prison’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego, but the heavily redacted audit reveals a host of system-wide problems, including “an inmate warehouse worker who attempted to introduce contraband concealed in cereal boxes into a high security institution.”

Prison policy provides for pat-down inspections of staffers, who may be especially tempted to smuggle smartphones and SIM cards for big-money bribes. “However, the policy did not prescribe any required frequency for conducting random pat searches, resulting in what we found to be infrequent staff pat searches of varying duration. It also allowed staff to possess and use within institutions items, such as tobacco, that are prohibited for inmates.”

Potential solutions have raised fresh questions. New “whole-body scanners,” says the audit, “can detect objects concealed in anterior and posterior body cavities.” But “incorrect implementation of the [redacted] when the officer and inmates are of different genders is particularly problematic because it can affect…compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.” In addition, some staffers, according to the document, were found to be “unaware of the prohibition on inmates viewing their images, which can compromise security operations.”

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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