Prison Inmates Increasingly Access Facebook On Mobile Contraband

Alarming numbers of prison inmates have the ability to access Facebook via mobile devices, and corrections officials can't confiscate the cell phones fast enough.

Prison officials can’t seem to confiscate inmates’ cell phones quickly enough, and many of the devices include Facebook applications that the prisoners use to regularly update profiles.

According to an article in The New York Times, California corrections officers confiscated almost 9,000 phones from inmates last year, and officials in other states also had four-digits worth of confiscations in 2009. All of these devices have social media on them, as an inmate at Smith State Prison in Georgia told the newspaper, “Almost everybody has a phone. Almost every phone is a smartphone. Almost everybody with a smartphone has a Facebook.”

All state and federal prisons in the U.S. prohibit cell phones, and when they are confiscated from inmates the punishment can mean either a postponement of parole or the addition of new criminal charges, depending on the location of the prison. But these punishments don’t appear to be enough to deter prisoners from arranging for mobile devices to get smuggled in.

Even closely monitored prisoners get their mitts cell phones: California prison officials recently found a phone underneath Charles Manson’s mattress.

Corrections officials and lawmakers want to supplement the existing laws prohibiting mobile devices in prisons with technology that would block cellular signals, along with the use of dogs trained to detect the smell of cell phones.

Disturbingly, there may be developers that consider prisoners an untapped market ripe for the creation of tools to hack around any technology that would block cell signals. Similarly, there might be some mobile engineers brainstorming devices that don’t smell like other phones.

I personally think corrections officials ought to try to beat the inmates at their own game: Postings on Facebook could ask people to report anything that looks like the handiwork of inmates accessing the social network via mobile contraband.

Readers, what do you think Facebook or the people who use the social network could do to help keep the inmates off the site?