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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Prison Inmates using Cellphones to Continue Crime

Artdogcnn Chante Wright was set to testify against a career criminal when she was gunned down on the streets of Philadelphia in January. Investigators believe it was a hit ordered from prison, by an inmate using a cell phone.

Authorities across the country are trying to prevent similar crimes from occurring.

"We owe it to the victims to not allow inmates to continue to run their enterprises from behind our bars," says Maj. Pete Anderson, who commands a canine unit that sniffs out cell phones inside Maryland prisons.

Cell phones have become the hottest contraband in prisons these days, authorities say. For $400 a pop, the phones can be used to run criminal enterprises, plan escapes and arrange for other illegal items such as drugs to be brought in.

Inmates hide the phones inside boxes of food, cutout books, in shoes with hollowed out soles and in mattresses and pillows -- basically anywhere is free game to hide a cell phone, says Sgt. David Brosky, a Maryland corrections officer.

Authorities say sometimes the phones lead to violence among inmates desperately wanting to communicate with the outside world.

"Inmates can make calls and conduct criminal enterprises from a cell phone if we don't try to limit that," says Mike Stouffer, Maryland's Commissioner of Correction.

"The cell phones are utilized to go around, get unrestricted access to the community, and that's not a good thing. Things can occur -- bad things can occur that way."

Maryland correction officials in June began one of the first programs using dogs to find the cleverly hidden phones. The program breeds and trains dogs to find cell phones hidden in the state's prisons.

Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2008/08/prison-inmates.html

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