Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crime & Prisons

Another story, from the Tennessean, about the prevalence of cell phones in maximum security prisons, allowing criminal enterprises to be directed from inside.

The importance of this is that the capability of current penal technology to protect the innocent from continually being harmed by imprisoned criminals is the heart of the argument for abolishing capital punishment by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, an argument we addressed in our book, Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support.

An excerpt from the Tennessean article.

“As prison inmates increasingly run criminal enterprises, order hits and direct drug dealing from behind bars, state corrections officials are turning to a new weapon: dogs.

“The Tennessee Department of Correction plans to train three drug-sniffing dogs to add cell phones to their olfactory arsenals in a growing war against prison contraband. Nationwide, prisons and jails have struggled to stop inmates from sneaking in cell phones and continuing to commit crimes while imprisoned.

"We probably will find one at least once a week here, sometimes more often," said Ricky Bell, warden of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, a prison that hosts Tennessee's most dangerous inmates. "We get reports from people in the community that they're getting threatening phone calls. That happens pretty often."

“In the last year alone, Tennessee corrections officers confiscated 1,684 cell phones at 12 state prisons. Other states report a similarly growing problem. Despite regular searches of inmates, their rooms and even their visitors, the phones still find their way to inmates' hands. Corrections officers are not allowed to carry phones with them.

“Sometimes, a friend or family member will toss a phone over a fence to an awaiting prisoner. Others use less comfortable methods.

"People have used some creative ways to get them in, by hiding them, how do I say this, in certain parts of their bodies," said Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the department.

“One of the officials' hopes is cell phone jamming technology. That technology exists but is illegal under current FCC rules. A bill exempting prisons from that ban has been passed by the U.S. Senate and awaits a vote in a House committee.”