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Prison Cellphones: Facebooking from Jail Cells

There is a new danger lurking in U.S. prisons: cellphones in prison. Prison cellphones, particularly smartphones, are the equivalent of a "modern-day file inside a cake," The News & Observer reports. Smartphones allow prisoners access to the outside world and continued illegal activities. Such sophisticated prison cellphones allow inmates to look up maps, directories, and even pictures for criminal purposes. It even allows some inmates to mastermind gang violence or drug trafficking online through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison. The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it," Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, told The New York Times.

If prison cellphones are so dangerous, how exactly are inmates allowed access to them? Cellphones in prison are not allowed in any state or federal prison in the United States. President Obama even signed a law over the summer that made possession of a phone or wireless device a felony. The punishment for the violation of this law was up to a year in additional sentencing.

Inmates are smuggling these cellphones into prisons,and getting help fromvisitors, other inmates, even guards.

What kind of creative smuggling are we talking about? Prisoners have people toss footballs over fences, launch them to them cannons, or even send them in packages with phones covered in grass, Gawker.com reports.

Despite safety concerns, some say that inmates who keep in touch with friends and families are more likely to successfully reintegrate with society once released. If inmates are given access to nurture such relationships with telephone calls, it can go a long way. David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project told the New York Times: "It shows that even if they are closed institutions, prisons are still part of the larger society. They can't be forever walled off from technological changes."

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