Prison battles ‘cell’ phones

| 06/12/2010

(CNS): Despite efforts to crack down on the use of cell phones at HMP Northward, the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs has revealed that some 74 illegal mobile telephones have been found within the prison walls this year. The advances in technology, which have resulted in ever smaller and slimmer cell phones, have made it easier for the items to be smuggled into the prison, but the chief officer in the portfolio, Franz Manderson, also revealed that phones are sometimes “catapulted over the perimeter of the prison”, which is adjacent to a public road. Manderson said that mobile phone technology presents a serious threat and a major concern for correctional services around the entire world. (Photo courtesy of Cayman 27)

“HM Cayman Islands Prison Service is aggressive in its approach to remove illegal cell phones and wages a constant battle against this prohibited article,” he told CNS.

The significant access that prisoners seemed to have to mobile phones was highlighted during the Grand Court trial of Randy Martin last year for the murder of Sabrina Schirn. Despite the prison stating that they were cracking down on cell phones, another case currently in the courts in connection with the murder trial of Osborne Douglas, Brandon Leslie and Patrick McField for the shooting of Omar Samuels revealed that Douglas had access to a mobile phone when on remand awaiting trial. Evidence before the court in an obstruction of justice case connected to that trial suggests that Douglas may have used that phone to intimidate witnesses.

As cell phones become smaller and slimmer, they are becoming easier to smuggle however, a problem noted by Manderson who also noted that sim cards are also being smuggled into the prison.

“Once a cell phone is smuggled into the institution, they are hidden in all sorts of places in cells and common areas,” Manderson said, adding that as well as being catapulted over the fence the phones are sometimes hidden on the outside of the perimeter for them to be smuggled inside.

“A number of strategies are in place to combat the smuggling and the removal of illegal cell phones from inside the prison. This includes targeted and random searches at all hours of the day and night and perimeter searches. Technology is being used more with the installation of jammers in a section of prison and with the hope of installing jammers in other areas,” he added. This, however, is limited by the proximity of a communication tower to the prison facility.

“The Body Orifice Security Scanners (Boss) chairs that can detect small metallic objects such as mobile phones units or sim cards without the need for intrusive strip searches is being look at for use on persons entering the prison,” Manderson explained. He also stated that new legislation is also proposed to combat the smuggling of contraband such as cell phones by making it a criminal offense to smuggle or possess contraband.

Currently the phones are prohibited in accordance with section 37 through section 41 of the Prison Rules (1999) Revision. If a prisoner is convicted of possession of a cell phone, a sentencing tariff is followed by the adjudicator. For a first offence an inmate is fined $25 and 14 days loss of remission; for a second offence the fine is increased to $50 and 28 days loss of remission.

A recent report in the Jamaica Observer revealed that prison inmates in Jamaica are smuggling cell phones to order murders from behind bars.

Jamaica’s Deputy Commissioner of Corrections said that phones enter the prison mostly strapped to the bodies of rogue correctional officers who have been bribed, and once behind prison walls, the inmates go to ingenious lengths to conceal cell phones.

"We found one that was inside a rock cake,” he told the Observer. “A hole had been cut in this large rock cake and the cell phone stuffed inside," said Campbell. "The warder noticed he (the inmate) had this rock cake for several days without eating it. When they checked, they found the cell phone inside."

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  1. Anonymous says:

    If it were a real prison they would be trying to break out not smuggle phones in.  This tells me they are very comfortable being "guests"  of the EQ II "hotel".

    This is pathetic!  The fact that they are bringing in cell phones tells you they don’t want to leave but prefer to chill and chat to "business associates".
    And if there are so may cell phones, how many pounds of drugs are being brought in as well?
    Pathetic!!!!   Prison is supposed to be a deterrent. Have they done a proper background check on the guards?  All it take is one bad egg.
    Wake up, people.
    • Anonymous says:

      The real problem here lies with the cell phone smugglers.  Legislate laws that make it a felony offense to bring cell phones into the prison, or possess them inside and add a hefty fine to it as well.  This would get the attention of those that think it’s worthwhile to provide inmates with a means to carry out their criminal endeavors  from behind the prison walls.

    • Anonymous says:

      While certainly I would never disagree with you in saying that it’s a hotel and the prisoners are pampered. I just think you might be looking at it from not the best angle.

      Now, I’m willing to bet most of these phones are being used by inmates to carry on the illegal enterprises while behind bars. Therefore, the aim behind it is to make money. Realistically speaking, it would be far more lucrative for them to stay behind bars and run their business from there then escape and attempt to run it. If they’re is an island-wide manhunt going on, I doubt the escapee is going to be able to properly run his business. So it just makes sense to stay behind bars and carry out his sentence and continue to make his money on the side. Even more so if the sentence is not one of great length. I’m not saying this is fact and that I’m right about this, it’s just an observation I made after reading the comment.

      I realise though that your comment was mostly to point out that the prison is made to be a deterrent and Northward certainly isn’t living up to that purpose which we all can agree on.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m in total agreeance with "Absurdistani"…

    Not just cinemas but hospitals, schools, govt buildings and even churches have these cell phone blockers. It’s a simple device that emits a signal wich interferes with the cell phone bands.

    And as for the 25 ci $ fine… How about 25 days in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT instead and 6 months to 1 year added to their sentance when they’ve been found in possession of a phone??? Sends a pretty strong message…!!!

    "… Can you hear me now!!!"

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well you see, the problem with the cell phone blocker would be that the staff can’t make and receive their private calls whilst on duty!

  4. Patricia X says:

    OK.  New criminal offences:

    1) possession of a cell phone 6 more months.

    2) use of a cell phone 12 more months.

    3) testing positive for drugs 24 more months.

    Make all of it solitary confinement for good measure.

    It won’t fix everything but it must be a start.

    Soft has not worked.  Or rather cowardly has not worked.

    I have spoken with people who have been to Northward and the odd thing is none of them seem to think it was too bad a time in their lives.  They should remember it as Hell.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I remember back in the 1990s when they tried to get control of the prison and as a result the inmates rioted and it took months to get things under control.

    Basically they don’t want to upset the inmates too much by taking away their phones or drugs.


  6. Anonymous says:

    What a disgrace and sory state of affairs.

    Let the prison become a prison and not a remand facility with all the perks including human rights.

    The prisoners did not think of the lawabiding citizens rights before committing the crime

  7. Absurdistani says:

    A battle? Give me a break!!!!!!!!!!

    Even some movie theatres have cell phone blockers now. Why can’t the prison?This is not that difficult.

     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The CI Govt declared the opening of a battle against the Absuristani prisoners at Hotel Majestic Northward. The prisoners were not easily reached by news media via cell phone because all lines were busy.

    Just another day in Adsurdistan.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why ask why?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am baffled that some people still have such high positions with a big salary and great benefits when they can’t work out a problem such as this. Gosh, what is this country coming to?


  10. Kmanite says:

    "This, however, is limited by the proximity of a communication tower to the prison facility."

    So which bright-spark decided to put the flipping cell phone tower next to the prison??


    Dont these people talk to each other? this is so obvious a security risk it is scary that they couldnt figure that out


  11. Anonymous says:

    This is silly. Every single building in the prison could be fitted with 30 metre radius cell phone blockers for a total cost of less than $1,000.00. All the prison authorities need to do is raise the "fine" for having an illegal cell phone to $1,000.00 (to pay for enough blockers for the entire prison). That way winning the "battle" over cell phones would be easy and would not cost the honest tax payers of this country anything. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Good idea, but how would you ever recover the fine? Log them up in solitary for a month if they don’t go be the regulations set out in prison!

  12. Anonymous says:

    What about those officers that help or have helped in smuggling these cell phones to inmates?  

    I know of one officer who was caught and suspended- what about the others?

  13. noname says:

    Of corase they have dogs that can sniff these out but the Cayman Islands doesn’t seem to know the worth of these animals. And treats them bad, and doesn’t know how to work with them. The dog is only as good as the master../friend/co worker…But hey doesn’t all Hilton hotels have phones, what makes Northward Hilton any different.


  14. sa says:

    Just a Tip !

    If you know they have cell phones in jail or  if not provide them illegal way to noted ciminals, try to get the cell numbers and tap them…. who knows tommorow u might get any clue of next coming or their buddies

  15. Anonymous says:

    The prison authorities owe it to the general public which pays their salaries to ensure that prisoners get in the habit of obeying the rules and the law while in prison. They need to do whatever it takes to make sure that prisoners follow the rules.

    Not only that but the $25 fine for possession of an illegal cell phone just reminds prisoners that our politicians have ensured that there is no deterrence of crime and no significant penalties for crime in our society. Someone at the top should lose their job for permitting such ridiculously tiny penalties for breaching prison rules.

    • Anonymous says:

      and when they don’t pay the $25 you should lock’em up! wait. they’re already locked up…

      everyone’s an authority on everything

  16. Anonymous says:

    A "battle" against illegal cell phone use???? I don’t think so. A prisoner caught with an illegal cell phone is fined $25. That is not a deterrent. It is a hardly even a fee for the illegal use of a cell phone. If those responsible for the prison were actually interested in clamping down on illegal activities in and around the prison then there would be real penalties in place. 

  17. Anonymous says:

    If they can catapult cell phones, they can catapult other items as well such as guns. This is a dangerous situation that needs to be corrected!

  18. Anonymous says:

    first offence an inmate is fined $25 and 14 days loss of remission; for a second offence the fine is increased to $50 and 28 days loss of remission.

    The penalties are laughable and provide no deterrent at all – but I suppose that is just like the penalties now imposed for the offences that put them behind bars in the first place.

    There should be a $10,000 fine and 2 years in solitary with no parole for anyone caught with a cell phone and anyone convicted of assisting in smuggling a cell phone into prison. Keep tripling that for each repeat offence.

    Of course they could also just put in a cell transceiver at the prison so that all cell traffic from the prison would be captured by a prison monitoring system and only legitimate calls allowed through. That may be far cheaper and more effective.

    I wonder how many illicit satellite phones the prisoners also have?

  19. KNOWLEDGE says:

    Rubbish talk about the Cell phones in prison.  These Cell phones are taken in, and not thrown over any fence.

    I was speaking with a friend just two weeks ago and she told me that she had just visited her man in Northward Prison.  Taken him a DVD player, some Ganja and a cell phone.  I was really shocked to know she had gotten all of those things to him, especially the DVD Player.

    Of course I did not report it.  Why not?  Because if he was caught, she knew that she had told me about it.   Then what?????.



  20. Anonymous says:

    sounds llike the inmates are having it way too easy……prison should be punishment…no more rock cakes!

  21. Sarah says:

    Wouldn’t it make sense to have double perimeter fences with a reasonable dead zone in between?  That way nothing could be passed though from the outside?  I am sure some with a really good throw might get stuff across both but a lot would land in the middle and the guards could patrol and collect anything that landed between the fences……just a thought.

    • Anonymous says:

      They are worried about cell phones?   Do they not realize if cell phones are making their way into the prisons what else is making their way into the prison?????


      This has been ongoing but just like everything else, nothing is addressed until it gets out of hand.  Sounds familiar??? Like the crime rate in the Cayman Islands (this just didn’t happen overnight)!!!!

  22. Anonymous says:

    "Technology is being used more, with the installation of jammers in a section of prison, and with the hope of installing jammers in other areas,” he added. This however is limited by the proximity of a communication tower to the prison facility."

    What a complete lack of imagination… don’t jam them – control them just like the cell phone companies do: 

    If you really engaged your mind to the possibilities, you might consider not only monitoring the zone for cell phone radio activity and routing it to a dead channel, you might consider it a source if intel, leave the channel active and actually listen to the criminals engage in their illicit conversations.  Who knows?  You might even stumble on an opportunity for a little crime prevention.

    • Anonymous says:

      We only monitor innocent peoples’ cell phone calls.



      • Anonymous says:

        No doubt between the Americans and the UK intelligence community on one hand and the Russians Chinese and everyone else on the other side of "the game" all watching and monitoring and listening and spying in turn, Cayman is one of the most heavily intercepted little islands on earth.  With all that listening you’d think someone could tune in as to the local crimes, but that’s probably too much to ask.

        • John Evans says:

          If tabloid newspapers in the UK can intercept cell phone calls it’s hardly ‘rocket science’.

          • Anonymous says:

             Hey John, can you send a few of those tabloid writers over here to tap the cell phones in the prison and do a story on the local crime explosion?

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen. I second your motion. It may even help to have the tracking equipment include gps so that the guards can pinpoint their exact locations and seize them. Also, I concur with your recommendation to record the conversations. Governments are doing it everywhere to combat terrorism, so why can’t we use it to deter crimes before the happen. If the prisoners know that such equipment exists on premises, then they would be less likely to risk being caught with the phones.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Manderson,

    Google "Cell phone blocker"

    There is your answer.