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Bars Behind Bars: Inmates Using Cell Phones In Prison

BLYTHE – From smart phones to cell phones worn on your wrist, more and more California prisoners are getting bars behind bars.

Chuckawalla State Prison in Blythe is one of those facilities where there has been a big spike in prisoners using cell phones.

The number of inmates found with cell phones doubled between 2007 and 2008, and most of them got caught after they have used them.

Prisoners have creative ways to transport their illegal electronics.

“They have somebody come by in certain hours of the day and discreetly drop a package off in one of the trash cans,” described Richard Smith with Chuckawalla State Prison.

There’s always the classic “hole in the book” trick. A jar of peanut butter might not only have salmonella, it may also have a phone inside. And don’t drop the soap! It might break the phone hidden inside.

Inmates use these electronics to commit crimes — everything from drug deals to ordering hits on rival gang members.

“Inmates in here still run gang activity on the outside from within the prison,” said Smith.

Chuckawalla’s warden John Salazar heads a state committee aimed at cutting down on prisoner cell phone use. Right now, an ordinance is in the early stages but one thing they are looking at is tougher penalties for prisoners caught with cell phones.”

Right now, inmates face a little longer prison sentence if they are caught. But catching them has become a harder task.

Corrections officers are working on better detection methods. Normally, guards screen prisoner phone calls. But there is no way to screen cells.

“With them having access to cell phones, we have no way of tracking what kind of activity they’re doing,” Smith admits.

Still, corrections officals won’t call it quits until phones are out of the inmates’ hands.

KESQ News Team

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