Cell Phones Found at the Camp

What happens if an inmate gets busted with a cell phone?

Friday, March 16th, 2012 |

The camp is very aggressive busting guys with cell phones and other electronics. The danger with a cell phone is that they can be used to make arrangements to bring contraband into the facility.  Cell phones are common at camps because it is so easy to bring one in.

Special Investigative Services (SIS) went to the garage where he worked to bust a guy for a cell phone. It happened that he had the cell phone on him. I don’t know the guy but I understand he is a big guy and very strong. Apparently, he resisted the SIS CO.  They started wrestling as the SIS CO tried to subdue the inmate. There was another inmate there who tried to grab the cell phone while the scuffle was going on. He was probably trying to get the phone so he could delete the phone numbers in the phone.

I would guess that the concern is to protect the citizens on the outside who was providing the contraband to the other inmate. SIS ended the fight and busted both guys. The guy who interfered was given three “100-shots” series disciplinary charges. These are serious. A single 100-series shot will get a guy kicked out of the camp.

They will probably charge the other inmate with assault and other charges.  He can get an additional 5-year term for this assault. He will probably spend the rest of his time in a higher security facility. All this over a stupid cell phone!!

Separately, they busted a town driver with a cell phone as well. They will transfer someone with a cell phone to another facility. Again, it is taken very serious.

Orientation & Depression

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011 |

I was depressed today due to a culmination of many things including being treated curtly by several guards for not having an empty trash can, having some things other than my bible on my locker, and a guard told me to take off my hat in the dining room.  This last item wouldn’t have bothered me except that another guy was standing near me wearing a Rastafarian rainbow hat.  Several other guys were wearing either wool hats or baseball caps. It just appeared that these guards were trying to get on my case.  Also, I’m really realizing that I am in prison. Sometimes it is very hard for me to keep my mouth shut. I’m trying to stay out of trouble but I must watch what I say.

Admissions & Orientation (A&O)

I went to my Admissions & Orientation (A&O) today and was given a A&O Handbook.  A&O is mandatory for all new inmates and is given every Tuesday. They had representatives from each department talk a little about their programs and do’s and don’ts.  Some things that came out of the session:

Mail

Anything weighing more than 16 oz. must have printed on the package “Authorized by BOP Policies” and state the contents (e.g. magazines, books, etc.). A magazine is technically not media mail and has to go at a higher postage rate.

Education

They have new continuing education classes posted all the time but the inmate must pay the tuition if there is one. Inmates teach some of the classes, and they set up their own curriculum. I’ll check to see if there is anything interesting. I’m going to try to get setup to use the legal library.

Email

They also said that there is a minimum wait of 60 minutes for email coming and going, and the system does break down occasionally. They know there is a problem and they are trying to fix it. I am paying $.05/min for the email system. I bought 600 minutes when I came in and I now have about 200 left. It’s not a problem buying more time if I have money in my account.

Phone

The maximum phone numbers I can call are 20. Also, I would need to get approval for collect calls (which really doesn’t pertain to us).

Jobs

It is mandatory that all inmates work for at least 90 days in the kitchen, which is about the worst job on-site, unless they have another job that facilitates the entire prison. I have been working hard trying to find a job. So far, I applied to library, education, laundry, psychology, and to Unicor for a clerical position.

Unicor is the textile factory run by the prison making Air Force shirts and jackets and food service pants. I would not be able to work in the factory per se because I can’t sew, but I applied for a clerical position. The problem is – all tell me that they aren’t hiring right now. The regular jobs pay something like 5 to 10 cents an hour. The Unicor jobs pay between $.23 to $1.15/hr. Preference is given to guys that have restitution, fines or child support to pay. I have none of that so I may not get the job.

Psychology Services has an inmate to inmate mentoring program. I would be perfect as a mentor because of my Stephen Ministry training. I’m meeting with that department head this afternoon.

Family Calling to the Facility

One CO said the prison is very adamant that the family should not call unless it is a true emergency. The prison will check and verify the reason for the call (i.e.; call the hospital, funeral home, etc.). They can shutoff contact with the family member if that person is caught lying.

Visitation

The Compound Officer talked about visitation. They are very strict on visitation. Everyone is either watched or videotaped, and the tapes are viewed later. They also said not to get there too early. Typically, 30 minutes in advance of the visiting time is good.

How to Cut the Cost of Your Prison Phone Bill

Written by Christine

Saturday, August 20th, 2011 | (Updated for experience after the original writing of the post)

We quickly discovered how expensive it is to make phone calls from prison.  An inmate is only allowed to make phone calls that do not exceed 15 minutes at a time.  The inmates are further limited to 300 phone call minutes each month.  In November and December, the BOP graciously adds an additional 100 minutes to the inmate’s phone account for the holidays.

I’ve never heard a reason why the BOP even limits the calls.  Kevin told me that the phones in his unit were always busy during the high peak times around count and in the evening.  But, he had plenty of opportunity to call during the day when most inmates were working.  Phone calls to home are essential to the inmates keeping in touch with their families.

We always used all our minutes each month.  Nearly all our calls were 15 minutes because we had so much to talk about and we missed each other.  The BOP charges inmates $0.60 for a 15-minute local call but $3.60 for the same call if it goes to a long-distance phone number.  So, the BOP charges 6x more for long distance phone calls. This is price gouging at its worst! Talk about kicking someone when they are down and out.   We were looking at $72 per month for phone calls alone.

Solution to High Prison Phone Bills

prison phone

Prisons phones are a rip-off to inmates and their families. Copyright: photodee / 123RF Stock Photo

I knew I would have to go to Verizon to make some changes to our phone plan. We had decided to get a local number on Kevin’s cellphone since he wasn’t using his cellphone.  He was still under a 2-year contract so we had to pay the monthly access charges anyway.  I changed his old cellphone number to a new number within the zip code of the prison and forwarded Kevin’s cellphone to my phone.

TIP: Don’t go to your local store, but call the customer service line. They were far more efficient and could get the out of state number easier that the local store.

However, this was not a permanent solution because we did not want to keep paying the Verizon line access charges after his contract expired.  We ultimately settled on a Google Voice number with a 919-area code.  I forwarded the Google Voice line to my cellphone.  We used this number for the full-time Kevin was in prison, but …………

Glitches

The BOP prohibits calls to phones that are forwarded.  Fortunately for us though, the Butner phone software was not able to detect that the Google Voice number was forwarded to my phone for nearly all calls during all three years.  We were not that fortunate when Kevin was sent to Mecklenburg County jail subsequently.  Almost none of the Google Voice calls were forwarded to my phone while he was in Mecklenburg.

We later learned that calls to a Magic Jack number also will not be completed in a federal prison.  There are other services available that promise to reduce inmate phone call costs but almost all of them use some technology that are at odds with BOP policy.  Google Voice worked the best for us.

The prison inmate phone business is BIG business and the institutions get a cut of the action.  As much as the BOP and others may cry about the need for security, it is the money that is driving the policy.  Prison phone calls have always been a rip-off, and probably always will be due to the money involved.