Monday, October 12, 2009

Mobile Phones in Prison

If you believe the spin emanating from the Ministry of Justice, then the 8000 odd phones found in prisons last year had the sole use of 'nefarious purposes'.

It seems that vast criminal enterprises are being run by Chopper Evans in Cardiff, Toon Tony in Strangeways and "I married my mother" Fred in Dartmoor. The global drugs trade centres on a bloke lying on his bunk in the Scrubs, despatching assassins and cocaine during the adverts in Corry.

That such an insistent pack of lies is being spun by the Ministry must surely make one wonder what the real story is? It is a simple and common tale, involving civil servants in the Prison Service being stupid.

The truth is that these desk jockeys signed a contract with BT to provide a phone system for prisoners. What should have been a simple matter was turned into a nightmare, because the idiots agreed a contract that meant that prisoners are charged 7 times

more than it costs to use a payphone on the street. Even the Office of Fair Trading has kicked off over this contract.

Simple human urges took care of the rest. With our wages being set at a pocket-money level that would see a 10 year old leave home in disgust; and with the natural urge to speak to our wives, children and mothers; then the result was foregone.

So mobile phones are smuggled in. Not for organising miscellaneous wickedness, but so that we are able to talk to our families for longer than a few minutes at a time without exhausting a week’s pay doing so. Being imprisoned and punished is one thing. Being ripped-off is what gets our goat.

And for those who question why we have access to phones at all, consider the simple point - maintaining family contacts is one of the most powerful factors in reducing reoffending. Why should our families suffer for what we have done?


  1. I am not sure about your argument. It is right that you put it forward as you are speaking from a prisoner view. However, I feel strongly that whilst many prisoners would be using a mobile phone for the purposes you say, many too would be using it to organise crime, contraband into prison, checking up on their partner's activities etc.

    No prison governor can take such a risk and sadly one does lose certain rights when serving a period of imprisonment. The right to contact friends and family when ever you want would also infringe the rights of other prisoners as one could make calls at any time of the day or night. How can an institution survive with mobile phones going off 24 hours a day. I for one am often exasperated at mobile phone etiquette - how much worse would it be in a prison. Further, I can imagine the nightmare of a jealous or controlling partner who was unable to contact someone. I have just watched Criminal Justice and saw a controlling partner who was making regular calls to his wife to ensure he was able to control her behaviour when he was not with her. I could see prisoners doing the same thing and then the nightmare of staff having to deal with this situation.

    I do not like the argument that the natural urge to speak to family should prevail. I must question whether such issues should not have been considered before committing the crime. Yes research does indicate that having stable family relationships does help recidivism. If we consider the age of the majority of criminals, research also indicates that "growing up" is also a powerful factor.

    I would agree with your argument about the cost of telephones. I read some time ago that the same costs were made by NHS Hospitals. this has been rectified and I do hope the same happens within prisons.

  2. I agree with the above comments by Anonymous to a certain degree. However, relationships between the offender and their children are paramount whether you like it or not. I agree that offenders should have thought about the consequences regarding family contact but at the end of the day, children are the main ones effected by parental imprisonment and the buck ends there.

  3. The previous two comments have so much of an "if you can't do the time..." air to them, which is ironic.

  4. i do not consider my comment at all relates to if you can't do the time. It was my intent to give a broader argument from all involved. As a society we invest in our Criminal Justice System. We entrust Prison Governors to run establishments safely, humanely and to ensure people do not abscond. My views were that whilst prisoners may have a valid reason for wanting technology other matters have to be cosidered.

    I am sure the writer of the blog does not want this site to be taken over by former prisoners and welcomes debate as long as it is well argued. It would be a sad blog if everyone agreed.

  5. Lets look at this for a minute. If anyone was cut off from friends and family with only the option of keeping in touch by a phone that is 7 times the expensive public phone tariff, then anyone would try to get around this problem. Ask customs and excise about their similar enforcement problems.

    Prisoners are mainly already returned to society in a ready to fail situation. What chance do you think they stand if they are made more likely to loose their already difficult to keep social networks because BT are shafting a captive audience?

  6. What he should tell me if the person far from his family them they try to communicate with them.tale him other way.

  7. Such disturbing news never makes me happy. Many doubts raise on mind. Do cheap recycled mobiles enter prison for communication purpose. I would say it is good to Sell my mobile phone to a phone recycler but if these phones end up in prisons then it means they are put to wrong use by criminals. However, prisons are homes for reformation.