Prison not tackling phones

| 18/11/2013

(CNS): Two years ago the complaints commissioner made recommendations that cell phone jamming equipment should be installed on the premises of HMP Northward to stop inmates communicating via internet and phone with the outside world and prevent the need for inappropriate strip searches. However, in her most recent report Nicola Williams says that nothing has happened towards this end. Following an investigation into a complaint made to her office about inappropriate strip searches on female inmates at Fairbanks, the commissioner made three major recommendations to the prison and the Portfolio of Internal Affairs. Although two were followed, the third, which concerned the phone jamming, has not been addressed 19 months after the deadline for compliance.

As a result and in accordance with the law, the Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) conducted a special report into the circumstances surrounding the issue and why the prison and relevant authorities had not taken the necessary action as ordered by the office. 
Williams had recommended that the prison service install phone jamming equipment at both Northward and Fairbanks Prison as an effective way of addressing the problem of what appears to be prolific phone use in Cayman's jails.
"Since realistically it is virtually impossible to stop cell-phone and BlackBerry use in prisons, this is a sensible, viable and, in the long-term, cheaper alternative which would avoid regular and repeated use of strip-searching as a means of retrieval," she said, warning that such searches could not only put the prison and government in violation of Human Rights but leave them open to potential lawsuits.
The commissioner said the minor inconvenience to staff wanting to use cell-phones and BlackBerrys for personal use would be outweighed by the benefits such equipment could bring.  
Phone jamming is used widely around the world in prisons and is currently under consideration for use in the UK in all its prisons, as the issue of smuggling smart phones and SIM cards is very hard to stop. 
As reported on CNS on several occasions over the last year, many prison inmates have been using smartphones to post pictures from their Northward cells on Facebook, including a convicted rapist. Some were pictured smoking ganja in their cells as well as throwing gang signs and making comments on the social media site. It has even been suggested that gangland hits have been ordered from inside the walls of Northward via cell phone. 
Although the commissioner said she was aware of the financial constraints on the prisons and the portfolio and some attempts towards compliance had been made with regard to the outstanding recommendation, those efforts fell far short of substantial compliance. Pointing to the reports of cell phone use in jail, she said the failure of the authorities to address this issue was compounded as the deputy governor had told her office that some form of jamming was in use, but this appeared to be confined to the high security unit. Reports of the inmates using phones with apparent impunity told a different story about the jamming equipment said to have been in use, as at least one inmate posting on Facebook was in the high security unit. 
The commissioner noted that the Body Orifice Security Scanner [BOSS] Chair was notproperly calibrated and has not been used as it was meant to be. As a result, handsets and SIM cards were being smuggled into Northward by visitors.
The OCC was not alone in its concerns as the UK's Inspector of Prisons report published last year also raised the issue of cell phone use inside the jails.
Williams writes in the special report that, given the extensive correspondence between the OCC and the chief officer of the portfolio concerned and since it is some 19 months since the deadline for compliance expired, she urged the authorities to deal with the matter.  The report outlines the reluctance of the public authority to comply and the constant delays in their response to the commissioner and the special report.
The original complaint filed with the OCC related to a strip search conducted on female prisoners at Fairbanks. One of the prisoners believed that this was a direct retaliation relating to a complaint that she had made the day before about an inappropriate comment made during a previous search by a prison officer.
Several witnesses reported that one of the officers had stated: "That’s what you get for writing letters about officers.” The search was said to be unnecessary as the phone the officers were looking for was in plain sight, allegedly on the prisoner's bed. 
At the time of the search two of the teenagers involved were on remand and the third was serving a sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. None of them had been in prison before.
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  1. Bear Baiter says:

    Cell phones still common in our prisons? Gee! Is anyone surprised??

  2. Anonymous says:

    The prisoners should be allowed to paste on Facebook, as it highlights what a bunch of vain tools they are.

  3. Anonymous says:

    They should put in a LIMEkiosk in Northward so the inmates can stay up to date on their phones.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Aww that's a cryin' shame. They won't be able to call a BFF to get resupplied with contraband anymore.

  5. Cheese Face says:

    Someone is, the prisoners!

  6. Maiden Plum says:

    But what about about the prisoners?? How are they gonna post on facebook now!!!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Maybe you mistated her but I'm pretty sure she has no authority to "order" the prison to install cell phone jamming equipment. It is also not clear that a "special investigation" of cell phone jamming could be expected to produce anything other than more complaints by her that people are not following her "orders."

    • SSM345 says:

      Cell jamming equipment already exists at the prison, the muppets who installed it did so right beside radio antenna's for the local stations so it doesn't work…………

      • Know it all says:

        Does anyone check to find out that the cell tower was there before the cell jamming equipment was installed. The OCC needs to stay out of the law enforcement business.

      • A-nony-mouse says:

        The tower not only houses local radio stations, but also cell antennas for LIME & Digicel.  The closeness of these antennas makes cell jamming in the prison environment virtually impossible.  Also, any equipment that could jam cell use in the prison would also negatively affect those residents in the general area as well.  Can you say mission: impossble?

        Either the cell transceivers have to move or the prison does.  Well, which will it be??

  8. Anonymous says:

    Makes me wonder if someone is benefiting from the incompetence!

    • Anonymous says:

      Just the Bad guys and the staff chatting on their phnes during business hours.

      • SSM345 says:

        I think that is why LIME and Digicel have cut their roaming charges, so the bad man dem inna prison can phone yard and other overseas countries without getting nailed with a huge bill.

    • Anonymous says:

      We all do! No worries man!

  9. Anonymous says:

    the reason the prison cannot jam the phones totally is because of the massive radio antenna directly outside of the prison fence. you can put as many jammers in position as you can get your hands on but as long as lime leave that antenna in position they will never succeed.


    come on lime work with the prison. it was promised it would be moved 2 years ago but hey … you know cayman right?


    soon move .????????

    • Anonymous says:

      Am I missing something here?, if you go through the xray machine at the Airport with a phone in your pocket or concealed "ANYWHERE" on you it PINGS!!!. Is it beyond the capability of the prison Service to screen innmates and visitors this way?.

      • Anonymous says:

        "Is it beyond the capability of the prison Service to screen innmates and visitors this way?."  simple answer.  YES!!

      • Diogenes says:

        Like all other contraband in Northward, comes in over the fence because they do not have a two fence system.  ALthough given 3 full grown men managed to get out through the fence despite being filmed by a CCTV camera, not sure it would make any difference if they did have two fences!

        • Anonymous says:

          It ain't cuz they don't have 2 fences. It's cuz we don't care enough to do anything about it. 

      • SSM345 says:

        16:40, the most glaringly obvious way would be for Northward to install an X-Ray machine, are you going to help pay for it? Seems like a waste of money to me, perhaps just give the guards some of those magic wands instead? Or build higher fences that would require a rocket launcher to get contraband over it? Or perhaps screen the guards everyday?

        Who the f*** cares, cell phones in prison, wowzers, you know they have pay phones too right? Granted you can't post to facebook via a payphone but you can still contact your buddies, make a shot, have someone killed or plan a bank robbery. 

        Have you seen what they have in F-Wing? They are living the life up in there, the only thing they don't have is their girlfriends sleeping beside them at night, my parents took out 6 bank loans to educate me at a school abroad that had worse facilities than F-Wing!

        I think there are more pressing issues like rehabilitation, education, and preparing them for re-introduction to society. That is where time and recources need to be spent. The cell phone problem won't go away until they remove all the effing radio antennas that the genius in government decided to put in the grounds of Northward.

    • Anonymous says:

      That antenna belongs to the Government of the Cayman Islands.