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Cell Phones Confiscated from Prisoners Given to Charities

Cell Phones Confiscated from Prisoners Given to Charities

by Christopher Zoukis

Thousands of cell phones seized from prisoners nationwide have been donated to charitable causes, including domestic violence programs and Cell Phones for Soldiers.

Cell phones are considered contraband in every prison and jail in the U.S. In many jurisdictions, their possession or use by a prisoner is a criminal offense, including in the federal Bureau of Prisons. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.34]. Despite such penalties there is a burgeoning market for cell phones behind bars, and many end up being found by prison officials. In California alone, 12,151 phones were seized from prisoners in 2013.

As the confiscation of contraband cell phones has become more common, many have been donated to charitable organizations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections gave more than 1,100 cell phones to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The phones are refurbished by Verizon HopeLine and then provided to domestic violence victims. Phones that cannot be reused are recycled, with the proceeds donated to the program. The Alabama DOC sends confiscated cell phones to HopeLine and proceeds from the sale of refurbished phones are used for grants for domestic violence shelters.

Many of California’s contraband cell phones have been donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers, which recycles and sells them and uses the profit to purchase pre-paid calling cards for U.S. service members. Georgia’s Macon State Prison has donated 1,204 confiscated phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers, and many other facilities have done the same.

“It’s meaningful to us to be able to take this contraband and do something positive with it,” said Arkansas DOC spokeswoman Shea Wilson.

At the Avenal State Prison in California, 684 cell phones were donated to crime victims and law enforcement agencies in July 2014. And in Santa Clara County, prosecutors donated over 200 cell phones found at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison to a domestic violence program in October 2014.

“Some of these phones were used by inmates who have been convicted of domestic violence, and now they are being used to help survivors,” noted Assistant District Attorney Johnny Gogo.

Sources: Associated Press,,,,,,,,