Cell Phones Smuggled Into Connecticut Prisons - NBC Connecticut
Asking the tough questions and solving problems


Cell Phones Smuggled Into Connecticut Prisons



    Cell Phones Smuggled Into State Prisons

    The Department of Correction is cracking down on the illegal use of cell phones by prison inmates, with the help of a K9. (Published Friday, May 10, 2013)

    Prison inmates in Connecticut are finding ways to put you at risk, even though they're behind bars.

    They're getting their hands on cell phones that are smuggled into prison facilities.  Prison officials across the country say the phones could be used to make drug deals, coordinate escapes and even harass victims and authorities.

    The Troubleshooters also spoke to two former prison inmates who recall seeing other incarcerated people using cell phones to make drug deals and communicate with friends and family members.

    According to the Connecticut Department of Corrections, more than 100 cell phone devices have been confiscated from Connecticut prison facilities since 2008.

    "Conveyance or use of electronic wireless communication devices in a correctional institution is strictly prohibited.  This is a criminal offense," said DOC spokesperson Karen Martucci.

    Dr. Michael Jenkins is a criminal justice expert at the University of New Haven who said prisoners with cell phones pose a risk to the public by undoing the hard work of police officers.

    "Now those individuals are continuing their sway, continuing their control over their groups in the streets," Jenkins said.

    The phones can fetch up to a thousand dollars within a prison.

    So how do they get inside?  The Troubleshooters were also told by the two former inmates that some prison guards supply the cell phones.

    A spokesperson for the DOC said the department cannot discuss how contraband gets smuggled into prisons based on safety and security concerns.  However, DOC said if a staff member is caught supplying cell phones to inmates they would face criminal charges and possible termination from the agency.

    The DOC is dedicated to finding the cell phones before they can pose a problem.

    "The Connecticut Department of Correction recognizes the security concerns created by cell phones within our facilities and has responded appropriately," Martucci said.

    Lt. Greg Chandler spends his days with his K-9 companion, Briana, searching cell blocks for the contraband.

    "We do a good job of trying to deter it," Chandler said.  "I've got to give credit to a lot of our intel staff because we catch them very early if we do get them."

    Chandler said they've confiscated everything from $35 throw-away cell phones to iPhones and Blackberries.  Although the DOC cannot explain what exactly attracts Briana to the cell phone devices, she knows the scent well.

    "Once we had that odor, it was just a simple fact of imprinting her with that odor in her brain and teaching her to relate to search for it," Chandler said.

    Some states are considering installing jamming devices at prisons to block unregistered cell phone signals.  However, there are no plans to do that in Connecticut at this time.