By Leischen Stelter
Cell phones are proving to be one of the most dangerous weapons inside correctional facilities. “In prisons across the U.S., one of most popular items smuggled into facilities are cell phones and smart phones,” said Mark Bridgeman, President of the North Carolina Gang Investigators Association. “This connectivity provides an opportunity for gangs to continue running their operations from within prison walls.”
This is an epidemic in correctional facilities across the country. For example, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found a rise in inmate deaths in the state can be largely attributed to the use of cell phones by gang members within and outside prison walls, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Of the nine inmates and one corrections officer killed last year, the GBI says seven were prison gang related. The three killings in 2013 are also gang-related, the paper reported.
The Georgia Department of Corrections has acknowledged smuggled cell phones are a major problem and revealed that as many as 10,000 have been confiscated from prisoners in a year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
While cell phones can allow prisoners to conduct gang-related business from within prison walls, when phones are recovered it can also provide significant amounts of intelligence for corrections officials. “We can download all the data from the device and get an entire network of individuals in one shot,” said Bridgeman.
Intelligence gathering continues to be a primary focus for correctional facilities across the country in an effort to stem this rising violence. Bridgeman, who is only three classes away from getting his Master of Arts in Intelligence Studies from American Military University, said that each correctional facility in North Carolina has an intelligence officer who is responsible for collecting information about individual prisoners and vetting their gang affiliations.
How does this information get effectively shared?