Prisons to use dogs to find contraband cell phones

Prisons to use dogs to find contraband cell phones

Posted: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 8:01 pm

NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee prison system is turning to man’s best friend for some help sniffing out mobile phones that have been smuggled in to inmates.
Tennessee corrections officers have confiscated 1,684 cell phones at 12 state prisons in the past year. Regularly searching inmates, their cells and their visitors hasn’t been enough to stop the contraband.
“We probably will find one at least once a week here, sometimes more often,” said Ricky Bell, warden of Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, a prison that hosts Tennessee’s most dangerous inmates.
“We get reports from people in the community that they’re getting threatening phone calls. That happens pretty often,” Bell told The Tennessean.
Some inmates get cell phones from friends or relatives who toss a unit over the prison fence.
“People have used some creative ways to get them in, by hiding them, how do I say this, in certain parts of their bodies,” said Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the department.
The state is spending as much as $21,000 to train three dogs already at work finding drugs inside the prisons to also detect cell phones. There’s one dog each in East, Middle and West Tennessee.
Rhode Island already uses dogs this way, said John Shaffer, former executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and a consultant with ITT Defense, a contractor that produces cell phone tracking technology for prisons.
When dogs have the right training, they are “very effective at sniffing out the odor of cell phones,” Shaffer said. “Most handlers believe it has to do with the battery in the cell phone.”
Shaffer prefers cell phone tracking software, like the Cell Hound software created by ITT Defense. He said the software allows corrections officers to monitor in real time where calls are coming from to pinpoint where they need to search.
Inmates also have used cell phones to plot crimes and prison breakouts. Metro police Sgt. Mark Chesnut was shot last year after a Mississippi prison break that officials said was orchestrated with the help of a smuggled cell phone.
“We have to do something,” Carter said. “The problem is too large it’s too much a threat to the safety and security of the institution and people in the free world.”
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Published in The Messenger 8.4.10

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