Ohio prisons cracking down on smuggled cell phones

Detection gear being installed in prisons

Associated Press

LEBANON —The state prisons agency said it is cracking down on smuggled cell phones by buying electronic detection equipment.

It has spent more than $300,000 in the past year on the detectors, which are being used in the state's 28 prison facilities and four regional parole offices.

Inmates are not allowed to possess cell phones. Traditional detection methods turned up 483 cellphones in Ohio prisons last year, but many more likely go undetected, The Dayton Daily News reported.

Lebanon Correctional Institution Warden Ernie Moore says phones behind bars are dangerous.

"Cell phones give inmates the ability to continue criminal activity from inside the prison," Moore said.

Popular smuggling methods include using books and hefty legal documents with sections cut out to hold a phone. Sometimes they are tossed over the perimeter fence. One visitor to the Lebanon prison was caught with a phone inside a hidden compartment in a shoe.

The new portable cellular detection scanners purchased by the state are about 6 feet high and 5 inches in diameter with electronic sensors rising above the battery-powered base unit.

The devices are deployed in prison hallways when inmates are headed to meals or other activities. Inmates must line up and walk past a detector. When a red light flashes atop the pole, a corrections officer administers a pat-down.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections is trying new communication initiatives for inmates - included monitored emails and video chats - but cell phones are still prohibited.

An inmate found with a cell phone faces disciplinary action. People on the outside can face criminal charges for bringing contraband into a prison.

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