Archive for September 24th, 2011

Prison fights ‘cell’ phones

Prison fights ‘cell’ phones

| 24/09/2011 | 34 Comments

(CNS): A new machine acquired by HMP Northward will help in the fight to stop inmates getting access to mobile phones and SIM cards, which officials believe may be contributing to the current surge in violent gang killings. Prison authorities have admitted for some time that cell phone use by inmates is a significant problem. The governor revealed Friday that police suspect the ‘orders’ for some of the recent killings could have come from inside the prison walls via cell phones.  The new BOSS II, which was bought by HMP Northward using a donation from the FCO, is a hyper-sensitive, non-invasive metal detector that can pinpoint where on the body a visitor or inmate could be hiding something as small as a SIM card.

While regular body scanners may pick up cell phones — though as phones get smaller and slimmer they too become harder to detect — SIM cards are particularly difficult for prison officers to find as they are much easier to hide. With SIM cards in their possession, inmates can share just one phone inside the prison, enabling them to not only intimidate witnesses, carry on illegal businesses such as drug trading and keep in touch with gang members, but also, as authorities now believe, they can use the cards and cell phones to order hits on people outside the prison from literally inside their cells.

The chair, which cost $7,500, was unveiled in the visitor’s room at Northward Prison on Friday morning when Governor Duncan Taylor explained that it works a little like an airport scanner. He said it would make it much more difficult for the cards and phones to be smuggled into the prison and improve security.

“We face a challenge with prisoners who are bringing contraband, mobile phones and SIM cards into the prison, which allows them to make inappropriate contact with people on the outside,” the governor said as he revealed the concerns that the latest frightening surge in violence may have connections to the prison.

“Cayman is in a very difficult place at the moment following five murders in eight days,” the governor said on Friday morning when the chair was unveiled to the media. “We believe that there is some contact between the criminals in Northward and some of the people involved in these crimes in the last few days.”

Dwight Scott, the prison director, said that sweeps were being conducted throughout HMP Northward to try and locate the phones and cards. He said that this issue was one of the biggest headaches in all corrections facilities and they were doing everything they could to try and find them. He explained that phones enable people in prison to continue their criminality, from ordering murders to carrying on their drugs businesses. Although the technology to detect phone signals does existy, HMP Northward does not have access to it.

The chair, Scott said, was only one of the tools that the prison continued to use to tighten security and he explained that it would also help prevent weapons getting inside the prison walls. Although the prison does not have a reputation for excessive violence or a particular problem with weapons, Scott said it was important to remain vigilant. The director pointed out that the chair will also help to detect weapons, such as prison-made knifes, known as shanks, or razor blades.

During a demonstration of the sensitivity of the chair, it was able to detect a paper clip in the mouth of one of the prison officers. Scott said the chair was also mobile, meaning it can be used to scan new inmates, visitors, staff, prisoners after they have had contact with visitors, or when they are returning from court, and it could also be used for spot check searches.

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