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NJ Prisoners Refuse to Swallow PINs

Approximately two years ago, the entire NJ prison system switched to an "automated call" phone system. Despite a predicted hike in costs to family and friends of prisoners, very few prisoners objected in a short-lasting boycott.

On September 15, 1997, the prison population here (Trenton State Prison/NJ State Prison) was notified via memo that all Trenton State prisoners would now be required to complete and submit telephone IPIN [Individual Personal Identification Number] forms, listing ten names and phone numbers, with an additional listing for one attorney. These IPIN forms were distributed to all wings and units within this prison, and were to be completed and submitted by October 15, 1997, at which time the IPIN phone system would go into effect. Those who did not correctly fill out the IPIN form and those who refused to fill out the form or refused to sign their name, would simply be unable to use any phone call to home.

Out of approximately 1,800 prisoners, only about 130 IPIN forms were completed and submitted to the administration. Of that number, about 50 forms had obscenities and other assorted comments written on them.

October 15 came and went and the planned IPIN system did not go into effect. Meanwhile, at the wing rep meetings, the Assistant Warden was getting increasingly hostile to questions as to exactly when the IPIN system will go into effect. In late October, a new memo was issued, urging prisoners to request (by writing) and fill out the IPIN form so that prisoners "could maintain close family ties". This same [late October] memo stated that the IPIN system would be on-line "on or about November 1, 1997".

On November 7, 1997 (see enclosed memo) the prison population was notified that the IPIN system would go into effect November 10, 1997. So far, except for about 85 prisoners, this IPIN system is apparently being boycotted by the vast majority of prisoners. The prison administration is under the illusion that maybe some ringleaders organized a "group demonstration" -- refusing to accept the possibility that prisoners simply do not want a phone system that monitors and records you and the called parties conversations, but you are going to be forced to pay extra money for it.

I obviously can not say whether ultimately this apparent boycott will be successful. But coming on the heels of lockdowns, mass cell searches, a proposal to prohibit family and friends from mailing or dropping off food and clothing packages at the prison, or a host of other rumored restrictions in the near future, the administration's timing seems to be a big mistake as it regards this IPIN phone system. In fact, the administration did more to unify the prison population with this phone system than what prisoners were able to accomplish in the past eleven years I've been here.

[Initials Withheld], NJ State Prison

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