Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Guard’s Suspension for Dragging Injured Maine Pretrial Detainee Upheld

Louisiana officials are resorting to unconventional tactics to combat the “international” problem of cellphones within its jails and prisons. Prisoner use of the contraband phones has become so widespread that rarely a day goes by that guards fail to find one.             

Several factors drive the proliferation of cellphones in jails and prisons. For prisoners, they are free of security restrictions that record their calls and restrict who they can call. Plus, collect calls to their families and friends come at an exorbitant cost charged by profiteering prison phone companies. For guards, they can earn extra money.

 “That $50 cellphone might sell for $200, so you have a $150 temptation to the correctional officer or visitor who’s coming into the prison,” said Burl Cain, warden of Louisiana State Penitentiary.

 “We find cellphones with inmates almost daily,” he said. “We found one today. We found one over the weekend.”

As PLN has reported, prison and jail officials nationwide are battling this contraband issue. One expert says it’s an issue that reaches beyond U.S. borders. “This is an international issue,” said Tod Burke, criminal justice professor at Virginia’s Radford University. “Every state that has a jail or prison has been trying to deal with cellphones as contraband.”

Louisiana Officials seized 90 cellphones in FY 2010. That figure swelled to 384 in 2013. “There’s just been an astronomical growth in inmates trying to receive cellphones in jail,” said Lt. Col Bobby Webre, who served as warden of Ascension Parish Jail for 16 years.

Prisoners have been found to secret phones in their rectum to get past security with cell phones. Guards knew a trusty from the Iberia Parish Jail had a cellphone, but could not find it even with the help of metal detectors. “We knew he had it and were pretty sure where it was,” said Frank Ellis, the former warden at Iberia, “but nobody wanted to go in and get it.” The prisoner was placed in a cell “Until, finally, he had to pass it.”

To fight such snuggling, officials in Shreveport are using full-body scanners, resulting in one prisoner being found with a phone in his rectum. In Baton Rouge, pre-trial detainees must pass through “the tower,” a device that can sense cellphone components.

Legislation to allowing jamming of cellphone signals. Inside prisons has been stalled amongst controversy over the technique. Some states, such as Mississippi and Maryland, are using “managed access,” a new technology that captures calls before they get to the network allowing only authorized device signals to go through. Cost, however, is an issue that has stalled its use in Louisiana, although officials desire to utilize the technology.

Meanwhile, guards caught bringing contraband phones can expect to be prosecuted. Orleans Parish guard Tyrell Sutherland, 28, pleaded guilty to smuggling cellphones and marijuana in federal court. His June 11, 2014, plea subjects his to up to five years in prison.


As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login