Phone Home Crackdown


Texas prison officials were embarrassed a year ago when a death row inmate used a cell phone to call in a threat to a powerful state senator. That triggered the largest shakedown in state history, but what’s more troubling is that more cell phones are making their way into prisons.

From January through August, 995 cell phones have been confiscated. Last year, prison officials gathered up 1,226 mobile devices. This is supposed to be prison, a place where privileges are denied, which begs the question of how a cell phone ended up on death row.

Random cell searches have increased, as well as searches of staff members and visitors. The state also has installed video surveillance cameras and the entries of nine prisons where contraband traffic is high. Texas Department of Corrections officials have spent the first of a $10 million upgrade, but also say that stopping the problem will require more time and equipment.

Bill Livingston, executive director of the prison system, said the demand for cell phones remains significant enough that people will still try to beat the system. When all the security that is planned is in place, prison officials expect to see a spike in the number of cell phones confiscated.

DOC plans to install nearly a half-million dollars in electronic devices that can detect and locate phone signals.

Federal officials need to approve pending legislation that would allow states to jam cell phone calls inside prisons. Texas, and 29 other states, endorse this plan. For the sake of security and stopping the flow of all contraband into a prison facility, lawmakers need to get with it and approve the legislation. Prison officials need to crack down even more, though manpower will likely be at the heart of the matter.

Still, phoning home from prison on personal cell phone is unacceptable.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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