State corrections officials are considering a telephone access program to short-circuit unauthorized cellphone use in state prisons, corrections spokeswoman Pam Laborde said.
Laborde, responding Wednesday to a request for information about cellphone confiscations at Louisiana State Penitentiary, said officers have taken 32 cellphones from Angola inmates this year, and two more were found before they could be carried into the prison.
Angola Warden Burl Cain said officers have been confiscating cell phones “right and left.”
“To say the least, they are a problem,” Cain said, blaming corrupt officers for smuggling most of the phones into the prison.
“Some are brought in by visitors,” he said.
“They go to Walmart or somewhere and buy a cheap phone and then sell it to the inmate for two or three times what they paid for it,” Cain said, adding he suspects most of the payments are made by inmates’ families because cash also is considered contraband in prison.
Laborde said seven of the 34 phones taken at Angola were found in the extended lockdown housing area, but no death row inmates have been found with cellphones.
The unit is housed at Death Row, but is a distinctly separate housing area from inmates sentenced to death.
None of the 34 phones were confiscated this month, she said.
Employees have been fired for smuggling cellphones, but Laborde said she had no information Wednesday on their identities. The West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office reported it arrested two employees accused of smuggling drugs into Angola and one in June.
“Cellphones are certainly a security concern for the department as a whole, and the upside is that the officers are finding them. The department is also in the process of looking at a managed access program to combat cellphone use in secure areas of our prisons, similar to what Mississippi has implemented,” Laborde said.
In Mississippi, a third-party system intercepts cellphone calls made from within secure areas and checks the phone against a database of approved users before the signal is sent to a cellular tower.
If the phone is not registered, the system blocks the call and renders the device useless, according to news reports about the system.