Contraband mobile phones present challenges – and danger – to Indiana prisons
WISH-TV in Indianapolis recently aired an in-depth news segment on the proliferation of cell phones in Indiana state prisons. The piece quotes prison officials as saying that cell phones are the most dangerous piece of contraband in the corrections centers, largely because they facilitate other crimes. Yet, despite a department-wide initiative to reduce contraband cells, including using battery-sniffing dogs to discover concealed phones and implementing tough screening processes for workers and visitors, the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) continues to confiscate between 100 and 200 phones a month. They are still getting in.
Contraband cell phones are not unique to Indiana; in fact, as mobile device ownership among the general population approaches 100%, prisons and jails across the country fight an increasingly uphill battle against smuggled cell phones. Like in Indiana, most of the enforcement effort is focused on preventing phones from entering facilities, and confiscating them if found inside – controlling the “supply” of phones.
Another approach would be to try and reduce the demand for contraband phones.
The desire for legitimate communication with the outside world is only one motivation for using a contraband mobile phone in prison, and certainly doesn’t account for those inmates who use smuggled phones to conduct criminal activity. But it stands to reason that if there were ample and available legal means for offenders to communicate with their loved ones, the demand for illegal phones would decline to a certain degree.
Legitimate communication channels could include email and video visitation, two services JPay provides to DOCs across the country. Email is one of JPay’s most popular services, indicating that the demand to stay connected to communities on the outside through approved technology is high, even in Indiana. Video visitation offers the twin benefits of meeting the demand for more communication while simultaneously reducing the potential for contraband that comes with traditional visits.
The proliferation of contraband cell phones is not new; in fact, we’ve discussed it before here. If the prevailing DOC approach continues to emphasize the supply of illegal phones and not the underlying demand, this problem will likely continue.