British lags less chatty on mobiles
Or getting niftier at hiding them
British prisoners aren't as connected as they were last year - or prison wardens are losing the ability to find contraband mobiles.
The figures come in a written answer to John McDonnell MP, who asked the question of the Secretary of State for Justice. The prison service has only been collecting national figures for the last eight months but the trend is downwards; so either fewer handsets are being smuggled into jail, or the guards are getting worse at finding them.
The only figures we have for last year cover the number of handsets, and SIM cards, analysed by the prison service; but it was assumed that represented a subset of the total number of handsets that were just found, the majority not being worth expensive analysis. Therefore, in April this year the government started counting all the handsets, regardless of whether they warranted further investigation, and it's these figures that we now have.
The numbers themselves are remarkably stable: 675 in December 2009 compared to 633 in November this year. It's tempting to conclude that the assumptions about what proportion of handsets were analysed were wrong, despite the anecdotal evidence to support it.
However, there is a considerable quantity of such evidence, and comparing other months shows the numbers have certainly dropped (in February 2010, for example, 938 phones were analysed, but by April less than 500 were seized). So we think prisoners have fewer mobile phones but don't know for certain, and if they're just getting better at hiding them then we'll probably never find out. ®
Other approaches ?
I'd have thought they would want to block mobile phone signals in prisons. Maybe not in all prisons (e.g. open ones). They certainly should be doing this in high security ones, as enabling a prisoner in a high security prison to communicate without appropriate monitoring and control threatens the lives and interests of prison staff and others.
Why is it even an issue ?
Does it really matter if they have mobile phones or not ? I don't see what all the fuss is about, they can make payphone calls if they want to and have private meetings with visitors.
Maybe the prison service could have some femtocells where connecting phones not on a whitelist get directed to some premium rate service where the lags can hear weather forecasts for places they cannot visit.
is a fairly important part of the charging process, why isn't access to that more tightly controlled? I would have thought, from a simple safety perspective, prisoners should not be able to gain direct access to any electricity, or wires! Nevermind stopping phone chargers.
It shouldn't be too much of a stretch to determine power draw, throughout a controlled space, for all authorised items, and detect when anything additional is added in a section.
Contraband is often "hidden" in a guard's bag and sold to the prisoners: