Florida Department of Corrections via AP
A cellphone and cigarettes that were found inside a camouflage package near an undisclosed Florida state prison on Jan. 25, 2014.
They're hidden in babies' diapers, ramen noodle soup packages, footballs, soda cans and even body cavities.
Not drugs or weapons, but cellphones. They're becoming a growing problem in prisons across the country as they are used to make threats, plan escapes and for inmates to continue to make money from illegal activity even while behind bars.
"You can pick states all across the country and you'll see everything from hits being ordered on individuals to criminal enterprises being run from inside institutions with cellphones," said Michael Crews, head of Florida's Department of Corrections.
When two murderers serving life sentences escaped from Florida Panhandle prison last fall, a search of their cells turned up a cellphone used to help plan the getaway, drawing attention to the burgeoning problem. It was just one of 4,200 cellphones confiscated by prison officials last year, or 11 per day.
"The scary part is, if we found 4,200, we know that's not all of them," Crews said.
A nationwide problem
- In Texas, a death row inmate made several calls with a cellphone to state Sen. John Whitmire, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.
- Infamous murderer Charles Manson, imprisoned in California, was found with a cellphone under his mattress, twice.
- Two Indiana prisoners were convicted of using cellphones smuggled in by guards to run an operation that distributed methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs.
- A prisoner in Georgia was accused this year of using two cellphones to impersonate a sheriff's lieutenant and scam elderly drivers who had received red light camera tickets, getting them each to pay about $500.
- In Oklahoma, a newspaper investigation found dozens of prisoners using cellphones to maintain Facebook pages.
As corrections departments keep looking for new ways to stop cellphone smuggling, prisoners are finding creative, new ways to get them in.
"You may get a prepackaged, sealed ramen noodle soup — and it's completely sealed — the weight seems to be right, but when you open it, there's a cellphone inside," said Timothy Cannon, Florida's deputy corrections secretary. "They're very, very, very creative in the way they do some of these things."
— The Associated Press
First published February 17 2014, 8:13 AM