Are There Cell Phones in Federal Prison? Yes, But You Don’t Want One

Are There Cell Phones in Federal Prison? Yes, But You Don’t Want One

For decades, the public has been fascinated by the idea of contraband in prisons, from inmates in the film Goodfellas smuggling lobster to people building major followings on Tik Tok from behind bars. There’s little doubt contraband is one of the elements of prison life that captures the imagination and may even lead some to think that life in prison might not be so bad afterall.

Not so fast, says prison consultant Sam Mangel.

In a video posted to Sam Mangel’s popular YouTube page where he shares about the complexities of white collar crime and prison, Mangel acknowledged the reality of the contraband situation plaguing minimum-security prison facilities around the country: “You’re going to see cell phones and liquor and drugs and iPads. You’re going to see things in the camp that make your head spin.” Those who are active on Tik Tok may have encountered “#PrisonTok,” where incarcerated individuals share posts about life in prison directly from their institutions.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. After warning that cell phone users always get caught, Mangel expounds on the downside risk which can lead to a longer (and more unpleasant) stay in federal prison. Mangel continues, “When (people) get caught, you lose your Good Time Credits, you lose your opportunity to get into RDAP, you could be transferred to a higher security facility, lose your phone privileges. There is so much downside to the short-term use of using a cell phone in prison.”

Good Time Credits reduce an incarcerated individual’s federal prison time by 15% and are offered as incentive to maintain good conduct while incarcerated. The Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) may reduce an incarcerated individual’s time in federal prison by up to a year. One major disciplinary infraction in the federal Bureau of Prisons system can result in several years being added to an individual’s time away from home.

This is especially the case with the recent news that the federal Bureau of Prisons has upgraded the severity of the disciplinary infraction for having a cell phone to a “100 series shot,” the same severity level as committing violent acts inside of a facility. This is in recognition of the fact that cell phones can compromise the security of a federal prison facility.

On both local and institutional scales, federal prison camps have implemented stringent measures to thwart the entry of contraband into their facilities, reflecting a comprehensive approach to enhancing security and maintaining order. These efforts are multifaceted, incorporating advanced technological solutions alongside more traditional enforcement strategies to address the complex challenge of contraband smuggling.

One of the cornerstone technologies adopted in this battle against contraband is micro-jamming. This technology represents a significant advancement in prison security protocols, targeting the unauthorized use of cellular devices within the confines of correctional facilities. By emitting signals that disrupt cellular communications in a very localized area, micro-jamming technology effectively disables cell phones so they cannot be used.

In addition to technological interventions, there has been an intensified focus on dismantling networks that facilitate the smuggling of contraband. Recognizing that contraband smuggling is often a coordinated effort involving individuals both inside and outside of prison walls, authorities have ramped up their efforts to identify and prosecute those who collude with incarcerated individuals. This includes not only the direct participants in smuggling operations but also those who provide logistical support, such as conveying information or facilitating transactions. By targeting these networks, law enforcement aims to disrupt the supply chains that enable contraband to enter federal prison camps, thereby striking at the root of the problem.

By focusing on both the technological and human elements of contraband smuggling, federal prison camps are better positioned to safeguard their facilities and the individuals within them, ensuring a safer, more secure environment that is conducive to the rehabilitative mission of the correctional system.

In other words, the presence of cell phones is front and center for those operating our correctional facilities. The easiest way to ensure the smoothest-possible journey through the federal Bureau of Prisons system? Ignore the scenes in Goodfellas and keep your phone calls to the “wall phone” they provide.

Published by: Martin De Juan


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