NEWS

Inmates Use Smuggled Mobile Devices to Make Their Voices Heard

By Matthew Harwood

For years, prison officials nationwide have had to deal with contraband cell phones smuggled into their facilities for fear inmates could use the mobile devices to, among other things, orchestrate criminal activity from behind bars. The problem continues to persist, and has only gotten worse with prisoners obtaining new and ever more powerful smart phones.

As The New York Times reported yesterday, smart phones can alter the balance of power inside a prison.

The Georgia prison strike, for instance, was about things prisoners often complain about: They are not paid for their labor. Visitation rules are too strict. Meals are bad.

But the technology they used to voice their concerns was new.

Inmates punched in text messages and assembled e-mail lists to coordinate simultaneous protests, including work stoppages, with inmates at other prisons. Under pseudonyms, they shared hour-by-hour updates with followers on Facebook and Twitter. They communicated with their advocates, conducted news media interviews and monitored coverage of the strike.

The problem is made all the more acute by the revolution in technology brought about by smart phones that can connect to the Web. "The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison,” Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, told the Times. “The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it.”

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