Can You Have a Cell Phone in Prison or Jail?
In most American correctional facilities, cell phones are not allowed if an inmate is busted with one, there are dire consequences to be faced. Cell phones present a perfect opportunity to contact the outside world and, in some instances, conduct criminal acts even in lock up. Consequently, both state and federal prisons and jails have strict rules against possession of these phones.
Nevertheless, cell phones are among the most smuggled items into prisons. They are highly valued, even if it means using them in secret. They can allow inmates to send emails, make unauthorized calls, send text messages, and even use social media. Inmates could even use them to follow their cases and intimidate witnesses from lockup.
Why are Cell Phones Not Allowed in Prison?
Most prisons have reservations about allowing their inmates to have cell phones, with security being the primary concern. However, there are multiple ways through which inmates can use cell phones. Uses could include;
Communication with friends and family members; making calls the official way, is an expensive endeavor that many inmates feel is suppressing. Correctional facilities gain profits from such calls hence the motivation to smuggle illegal cell phones into these facilities.
Cell phones can also be used by inmates to organize work stoppages for prison labor across different prisons. They can further be used to organize uprisings and resistances that could threaten the prison administrations.
How are Cell Phones Smuggled into Prisons?
Despite the strict rules and regulations against possession of phones in prison, these gadgets still find their way into the hands of the inmates. The phones are mostly smuggled into the facilities through prison staff. These are not strictly inspected like other visitors since it is considered time-consuming, and they are paid per the time served; hence would reflect negatively on the cost of operations.
Visitors, inmates allowed to leave the facilities, and outsiders who come into contact with the inmates can also smuggle these gadgets unnoticed after critical planning. When these gadgets get into the correctional facilities, inmates get the priceless opportunity to purchase them from the smugglers. The prices vary and could go up to $ 1000 for a single piece.
How do Prisoners Use Smuggled Cell Phones?
Once smuggled mobile gadgets find their way into the offenders’ hands, they can be used for multiple purposes, some harmless and others illegal and criminal. Some of the benign uses include:
- Browsing the internet
- Calling family and friends
- Texting friends and partners
- Chatting on social media
Illegal uses feature the following:
- Organizing criminal activities on the outside
- Planning escapes
- Gang control
- Intimidating witnesses
- Gathering intelligence on jail staff to organize criminal acts in prison
- Fraud and conning
- Running contraband chains
Are Inmates Allowed to Make Calls?
Inmates in both federal and state correctional facilities are allowed to make calls to their loved ones. These facilities have landline pay phones through which inmates can make calls at the appointed times depending on the individual facility in which there are housed. In maximum-security facilities with a 23-hour lockdown, they can only access a phone once a week, while those in administrative segregation do not have access to this privilege.
To make a call, an inmate is expected to register and provide a list of contacts they intend to communicate with for approval. The call durations differ with an individual facility, but most are limited to 15 minutes with a 30 minutes gap before making a second call. Calls made are recorded and critically monitored by the jail staff. Inmates can access phone credits through their inmates’ account cards. In federal facilities, calls per inmates are limited to 300 minutes in a month.
The major prison phone service providers in the USA are Global Tel Link (GTL) and Securus Technologies. Global Tel Link controls about 50 % of the market while Securus grabs a 20% market share.
How Much Does It Cost to Make a Call in Prison?
It is no secret that making a phone call in prison is a privilege. As such, the costs are over the rooftop. While call costs on the outside are quite affordable, in prison, the few companies that offer call services charge overwhelming amounts that will drain an inmate’s call account instantly. However, the costs may differ with each facility, the service provider.
In most facilities, local calls costs hover around $0.06 per minute, calls to Canada cost $0.35 per minute, to Mexico $0.55 per minute, while international calls cost about $0.99 per minute. On the other hand, inmates can adopt a collect call arrangement where the receiver of a call incurs the costs. This type of call costs between $0.06 and $0.38 per minute for local calls and around $0.56 per minute for long-distant calls.
Inmates are also allowed to call personal cell phones as long as the service provider provides for such. Cell phones allow debit cards since the costs are cut from the inmate’s call account.
Call forwarding is not allowed in most federal facilities. While these might be deemed cheaper, they are considered a way of masking phone numbers or forwarding calls to unauthorized numbers. If you must use services such as Google Voice, it is advisable to ask the service provider to provide you with a number local to a specific prison to pay for a long-distance call service to avoid a code 297 incident whose consequences are losing your telephone connection for months.
Three-way call arrangements are also not allowed in Federal facilities. They are also considered illegal forwarding of calls to unauthorized contacts.
Can You Get in Trouble for Talking To An Inmate On A Cell Phone?
Inmates in American correctional facilities are given the privilege to contact their loved ones. How the recipients receive the calls is no cause for worry, they can receive them on landlines or cell phones. The recipient also has to feature on an inmate’s approved contact list. Consequently, as long as the rules and guidelines are followed, the inmate or the receivers are on the right side of the law.
However, one could get in trouble for talking to an inmate for some outstanding reasons that could include the following:
- They talk about criminal acts on the phone; the calls are monitored; hence both the caller and the receiver will be in trouble.
- You do not feature in an inmate’s pre-approved call list; a receiver may be subject to investigation if they receive a call from an inmate and do not feature on their call list.
- If you attempt to smuggle contrabands, if you plan to smuggle contrabands into a correctional facility in conjunction with an inmate, you will obviously be in trouble.
- If you use coded or gang language; if you communicate with an inmate in coded gang language, you will most likely face the wrath of the law.
Prisons That Allow Cell Phones
Most facilities, both state and federal, do not allow inmates to possess cell phones whatsoever. Moreover, these gadgets are considered contraband, and those found in possession can be charged or face serious consequences, including maximum lockdown. However, there are always exceptions to the rules, Union County, SC (WSPA), an upstate correctional facility, allows inmates to have cell phones.
According to the facility’s administrator (the Union County Sherriff), the inmate can purchase these gadgets for about $100. The arrangement, namely, CellMate Mobile Service, was incorporated into the facility in conjunction with Lattice Incorporated, the official service provider.
Inmates are allowed to use the phones between 8 am and 10 pm. They are, however, limited to making calls or sending text messages. Moreover, the facility dictates what the inmates can do with their cell phones. Consequently, they cannot access social media or browse the internet.
So, Can You Have A Cell Phone In Prison Or Jail?
Unless you are housed in Union County, SC (WSPA), there is no way you can have a phone in any correctional facility. Unless you are looking for trouble, don’t you have phones in jail! They are considered contraband and will always attract overwhelming consequences that might make your life in prison even worse.