Cell phones prisons' newest contraband

Cellular phones are everywhere these days - unfortunately, even inside state prisons.

Deputy Director of Corrections Glen Whorton said the tiny portable phones have become the newest threat to security and the latest item of contraband that staff has to watch for.

"Cell phones are a security issues for all corrections institutions," said Whorton. "We've caught a couple of them. We've very much limited who can carry a cell phone into an institution."

Only top administrators and some investigators are allowed to bring their phones inside.

Whorton said the issue was a major topic last fall at the National Institute of Corrections conference in San Antonio, Texas. Inmates have been found in numerous states using the phones to make and receive calls from the outside and even to call fellow gang members in other prisons.

"The threat cell phones pose is not only gangs," said Whorton. "It's also engaging in criminal enterprises."

Authorities around the country have discovered inmates using the phones to buy drugs and generally to continue running their criminal businesses from inside.

He said the biggest danger isn't from maximum-security inmates.

"We need to be careful about minimum-custody guys because they have that contact with outside society," he said.

Many of those inmates have access to people outside the system who might slip them a phone while they are part of a work or fire crew, for example.

Whorton made it clear the Nevada prison system is doing more than banning the phones.

"There is technology out there that can identify and locate those phones, and that's all I'm going to say about that," he said.

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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