Prison inmates using contraband cellphones to organize subversive activities

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Convicts in Georgia’s state prisons have a new tool to use against corrections department officials- cellphones smuggled in by friends and relatives, or an even more reliable source- prison guards. At least seven facilities are experiencing coordinated effort by prisoners using contraband phones to plan civil disobedience, including refusing to perform prison jobs, or shop at commissaries.

The phones are illegal inside prisons, but authorities acknowledge that they are commonplace. Recently, Charles Manson was reported to have one in his California prison. Officials have been worried that cellphones could be used to communicate with the outside world to plan escapes.

However, prisoners are using the devices in more of a social-networking fashion, communicating about issues on the inside. Topping the list of gripes are demands for better pay for work, more educational opportunities, better meals and reforms in sentencing rules.

Insiders say that inmates have been using the phones to build coalitions that normally don’t get along in prison, such as racial factions and gangs. As many as 10 percent of prisoners are thought to posses the phones.

Officials at the Georgia Department of Corrections have taken the precautionary measure of locking down several of the prisons in response to planned protests by prisoners. So far, the only backlash from the lockdowns has been scattered clashes with guards.

The New York Times

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