PRISON PHONES STORY- NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS- July 2008

A citizen journalist contacted us after coming across information that Britain's prisons are becoming flooded with mobile phones- causing a huge security risk.


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BRITAIN'S prisons have been flooded with mobile phones - with an illegal device for every 23 inmates.
The number of phones and SIM cards seized by jailers has risen by almost 40 per cent in the last two years.
Warders confiscated 3,606 last year - compared to 2,248 in 2006, Prison Service figures reveal.
And hard-pressed prison officers have had to deal with a rocketing trade as prices for the smuggled phones has dropped from from 500 to 200.
The problem has become so bad that one of London's most famous prisons has been labelled the 'Carphone Warehouse'.
Up to half the prisoners transferred from Pentonville to other jails have phones confiscated when they are searched, according to a whistleblower who revealed the scandalous scale of the phone-smuggling racket.
"There are so many of them that it's become a joke - although it's a bad one," said the warder from the jail where Amy Winehouse's hubby Blake Fielder-Civil was held on remand.
"And for everyone we're finding, you know that there are at least a couple that we don't find.
"Prisons are awash with them."
Top of the list of shame is HMP Highpoint, in Suffolk, where the number of phones seized rose from 81 in 2006 to 231 last year.
Wormwood Scrubs just pips Pentonville into second place on that list. Warders found 197 illegal phones there last year and 195 in Pentonville.
With the growing prison population standing at 83,000, that means there is a phone for every 23 inmates.
The warder went on: "What happens if there's a riot or an escape being planned.
"They can talk to accomplices on the outside, talk to each other if there's a riot going on.
"It's certainly a real worrying development.
"Then there's the drugs trade. These people are carrying on as if they're still on the street.
"Let's face it, it's not as if the phones have just been bought to call the folks at home.
"Part of the reason that they want mobiles is so they aren't monitored like they are when they use jail phones.
"You can tell there are so many of them about by how much they're costing these days. It's just a question of supply and demand.
"Six months ago, mobiles were changing hands for 300 for a basic handset and 500 for one with a camera.
"Now they're as little as 200 for an all-singing handset. It's not that much more than in the shops on the high street."
The revelations are even more shocking because the prison service tightened up the rules three months ago.
Up until April, it was only against jail rules for a prisoner to possess a mobile phone.
But since then the new Offender Management Act has made it a criminal offence to either possess or smuggle a mobile phone into a prison with a maximum sentence of two years in jail.
The main reason for the prisoners smuggling mobiles into jails is to make it easier to throw drugs over the walls, according to the whistleblower.
"You've got the throwers and the people inside talking to each other right up until the time that the packets are lobbed up in the air and over the wall," he said.
"They can make sure the stuff is thrown into blind spots where there aren't any staff and the drugs can be picked up without being spotted. When they're in communication it makes it easy."
Frankland saw the number of devices seized rise from eight to 29. Whitemoor saw a rise from 11 to 42.
Belmarsh - where Hamza conducted his interview - actually saw a drop in the number of phones and SIM cards that were confiscated.
A Prison Service spokesman last night said that they were trying to tackle the growing use of phones with a three-pronged attack.
This includes stopping phones getting into prisons, finding the ones that have been smuggled in and introducing jamming systems that makes the phones useless.






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