Having thankfully never spent any time ‘at Her Majesty’s pleasure’ – or ever even known anyone who has – I’m not sure how much of a problem mobile phones in prison are.
And although I’m pretty sure it won’t be up there with a metal-file-in-a-book, or a sleeping guard with keys dangling from his pocket, it’s enough of a problem for the Scottish Government to introduce new legislation to allow prison management to interfere with wireless signals to prevent inmates from illegally messaging one another or the outside world.
And so two prisons north of the border (north of the border if you’re reading this in England, that is) will be trialling devices that cut off mobile signals over a wide area to prevent people from making or receiving calls and texts, or even accessing the internet.
Prisoners’ nefarious use of phones
The legislation has been passed after a growing number of prisoners have been caught with mobile phones in their cells, some of which have been used to stay in touch with criminal associates on the outside, maintain links to gangs, harass victims and even direct operations from their cells.
The use of mobile phones in prisons has also been linked to drug dealing, violence and bullying and some inmates have been keeping up appearances by keeping up Facebook and Twitter accounts while behind bars.
Last year there were 236 investigations into allegations that prisoners were running social networking pages from their cells, and this led to 171 accounts being shut down.
Possession of a phone while in prison is actually a criminal offence and 91 people are currently serving custodial sentences for either keeping a phone in their cell or attempting to smuggle one to an inmate.
And so to try and curb the problem, blackout technology is being trialled at two prisons that have been identified as mobile phone hotspots, HMP Shotts in Lanarkshire and HMP Glenochil in Clackmannanshire.
Almost 2000 illegal devices have been detected in Scottish prisons since 2011, with 212 mobile phones confiscated from HMP Shotts alone, and because phones are small and lightweight, they’re easy to hide in cells and have even been discovered sewn inside clothing and slipped inside shoes -they’d never have got away with this in the 80s!
Mobile phones have even been found in hollowed out books – not sure quite how useful they’d be to file away at bars though.
The technology is due to go live during the spring – we’ll keep you posted.