“The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison,” said Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, one of a handful of companies that create cellphone-detection systems for prisons. “The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it.”
One inmate says: "Almost everybody has a [smart] phone."
Inmates use the phones to coordinate protests and also to plan outside crimes. How do the phones get in?:
In South Carolina, where most prisons are rural and staff members have to pass through X-ray machines and metal detectors, smugglers resort to an old-fashioned method – tossing phones over fences.
They stuff smartphones into footballs or launch them from a device called a potato cannon or spud gun, which shoots a projectile through a pipe. Packages are sometimes camouflaged with a coating of grass, which makes them hard for guards to detect. The drops are coordinated through texts or calls between inmates and people outside, said Jon Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, which confiscates as many as 2,000 cellphones a year.
The cellphone industry does not support phone-jamming plans, which it claims are illegal: "He [a spokesman] cited the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits the blocking of radio signals – or, in this case, cellphone signals – from authorized users."
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