/Crackdown on prisoner cell phones proves difficult

Crackdown on prisoner cell phones proves difficult

Officials claim that inmate cell phone calls to two state prisons have resulted in more than 9,000,000 attempted and actual transmissions over the last five years. Marshall L. Fisher is the commissioner of the state Department of Corrections. He also blames vendors and people who toss the phones over security fences. The “constant problem” of prisoners using cell phones in correctional facilities across the country, he said, was their use. A federal conspiracy trial in Mississippi revealed earlier this year that Mississippi prison inmates had orchestrated murder, attempted murder and kidnapping using illegal cell phones. The wider problem in Mississippi’s 194,000 prisoners was highlighted by testimony. More than 3,000 “contraband phones” were found last year. It is not difficult to see how prison staff helped them get inside the facilities. MDOC officials cannot help but wonder how many other devices prison inmates have, which can be used for financial transactions and communication. Fisher stated that “Coast-to-coast, everyone’s struggling with the problem.” All U.S. federal and state prisons prohibit cell phones, with some exceptions for high-ranking corrections officers. Governor Phil Bryant joined nine other governors in asking the Federal Communications Commission for changes in how cell phones are handled in prisons. Phil Bryant joined nine other governors in asking the Federal Communications Commission to make changes in how illegal cell phones are handled in prisons. Bryant was joined by governors from South Carolina and Georgia, Indiana, Maine. Nebraska, South Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota, Georgia, Indiana, Maine. Nebraska, North Dakota. South Dakota, South Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah. The governors sent a letter to the FCC stating that the FCC should streamline regulatory review and allow states to install cost-efficient technology into prisons. This will ensure that the safety of the public is not compromised. Mississippi Today reached out to the FCC for clarification on their response to our inquiry regarding the governors’ request. Grace S. Fisher, MDOC spokesperson, said that she doesn’t know of any FCC response. Officials believe that jamming the cell signal inside correctional facilities is the best solution. This will prevent anyone from using the device while inside. Sean Smith, chief of Mississippi corrections investigation, stated that jamming phones was illegal and unpractical. He said, “I’m in the unit, and sometimes i need to make calls.” Smith stated that 1934 law only allows federal agencies to jam public radiowaves. Cellphone companies claim that jamming techniques suggested by the states could disrupt legal cellphone use. Although cell phone use by state prisoners doesn’t seem new, it was discovered that the illegal use of cellphones for criminal purposes during an Oxford federal trial. Members of Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist group, were accused of murder, assault, and racketeering. The trial jury was able to hear inmates plotting violence against others and drug trafficking through multiple phone conversations that were recorded inside state prisons. Stephen Hubanks, the defendant, pleaded guilty to the charges against him. He testified that he and Aryan Brothers members regularly spoke via cell phone. He testified that he bought the phones and some were brought in by officers. He also stated that he spoke with the leadership of the regional Aryan Brothers often every day and at least twice per week. He shared with jurors the story of how he and other brotherhood members used their cell phones as computers to transfer money, pay bills, and perform other transactions. Hubanks said that money is transferred via Western Union or a Green Dot money package, which can be used to buy a variety of places using a pre-paid debit credit card. Hubanks also noted that this was how he and his brotherhood members paid for lawyers, drugs, house bills, and support for their families. He explained that the card can be used to purchase money packs. To do this, call the number for your account number and dial the number from the money pack and the money will go into your account. Fisher stated that it is easy to understand why inmates want cell phones. He was the former director of Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and said that the agency conducts wiretaps of prison conversations in order to investigate criminal activity. Fisher stated that while we cannot divulge the exact details of how we monitor cell phones, we do regularly search staff and conduct searches on offenders to put netting around our security fences. Mississippi’s call detection system was introduced five years ago. It was praised as a potential solution to illegal phone communication. The managed access system was also tested in other states. It establishes a network that surrounds a prison and detects every text and call. Cell phone users who are not on the approved list were notified that their device would not work and they were banned from calling. Parchman and South Mississippi Correctional Institution, Greene County still use the detection system. Six years ago, MDOC intercepted 643,388 calls, texts, and emails that were sent and received by Parchman, a state penitentiary housing 3,000 inmates in the Mississippi Delta. This was for six months. Smith stated that cell phone possession and use is a constant battle at 30 MDOC facilities. Fisher stated that budget pressures create problems systemwide, particularly with low-paid staff. He describes them as being the lowest paid people in the country. Low pay could make them more vulnerable to being bribed by prisoners in search of favors. He said, “But we’re going do the best with what we have.” Smith and his team are currently working together to develop a new strategy to disrupt cell phone transmissions between inmates. Fisher believes that there are answers. He said that technology has advanced dramatically over the past 10-20 year. “Technology has changed drastically over the past 10-20 years,” he said. He believes we are on the cusp technology that can shut down signals while still allowing us to use them. Smith stated that MDOC is doing all it can to stop illegal communication by prisoners. FCC states that prisoner illegal cell phone use is a top priority. They note that contraband cell phones were used by prisoners to organize the murder of witnesses, traffic in drugs, and manage criminal enterprises. He said, “It’s safety.” “They’re more than just calling Mother.” * ** WHAT DO INMATES TELL OTHERS? Federal prosecutors presented testimony during an April 2016 trial in Oxford. It revealed extensive illegal cell phone conversations between state inmates. Here’s a sample from one of the calls between Frank Owens Jr., defendant and Marty Miller, another inmate. OWENS: I’m interested in finding out more about the f —‘, investigation. He’s also asking about Eric Parker’s paid hit. MILLER. I’ll get to the bottom. He is living out there in Ellisville, working with his uncle at the chicken houses. He doesn’t have a ride and he will get to me as soon as he has a ride. Ah, he wants – he’d like to go to church (a gang meeting), even though he can’t. OWENS: I would say that I want to know what is up with this detective and all the talkin’ about Eric Parker. MILLER: Why didn’t he tell me anything about that? Perhaps he didn’t want to talk on the phone. I said to him that he could call me every day. You know what I mean, just to check if it’s pourin’ at mine house. Or something else.