Ind. corrections allows cordless phones to battle contraband

Move was also made to encourage better inmate behavior

By Michele Coppola
Tech Beat Magazine

The Indiana Department of Correction is allowing inmates to use cordless phones in their cells in an effort to stem recidivism and contraband cellphones and encourage better behavior while incarcerated.

“I think it improves access to family and friends and thereby can improve reentry into the community. So far the inmates are pretty happy with it,” says Deputy Commissioner James Basinger.

The department has been using cordless phones in prison recreation areas for about two years. From a phone bank, corrections officers pull phones off the charger and hand them to inmates who have signed out to use them.

Basinger says this spring the department decided to extend the cordless phones to one 250-bed general population maximum security housing unit in the 3,000-bed New Castle Correctional Facility as an experiment. The program has gone well and will be expanded to another 250-bed unit in the facility, as well as to the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Ind.

Security is essentially the same as a stationary wall phone with monitoring and recording by the prison. The phones are connected to the provider network just like the stationary wall phones so the security protocol is the same.

“You can’t call anyone other than who you are authorized to call,” Basinger says. “You have to enter a pin number to be able to use it, just like the phone on the wall, which pulls up your data and you can only call people on your approved calling list. There is no change in the system other than you have a cordless phone. It’s hooked up like a phone on the wall and goes through the same system. We can still record and it is not an outside line.”

Inmates are allowed to walk around with the phones and take them to their cells to have a phone conversation out of hearing from other inmates, which Basinger says could lessen inmates’ desire for cellphones. Although inmates use contraband cellphones for criminal activity, not all inmates want them for that purpose.

“I think it’s a way to combat the contraband cellphone problem,” Basinger says. “In my opinion part of the interest in cellphones is you can talk to family and friends in a private setting and are not standing up at the wall with other inmates. We want to encourage communication. Inmates with more contact with family and friends may behave better.”

Basinger says the prison system detects about 100 contraband cellphones each month. The system uses an in-depth search plan, managed access, CellSense detection technology, K-9 cellphone detection dogs and walk-through and handheld detection equipment.

Basinger says the cordless phones augment the prison system’s two-year-old kiosk service, through which inmates can have video visitation and videograms and send and receive e-messages, all of which are monitored. The department completed agency-wide deployment of the kiosks earlier this year.

“It’s all about improving communication,” Basinger says. “It seems like a good way to improve their reintegration. If they keep connected to the family it might make them stay out of prison when they get out. We are trying to get them out and to be productive.”

For more information, contact James Basinger at For information on National Institute of Justice corrections programs, contact Jack Harne, corrections technology program manager, at

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