Impact Georgia Impact Georgia Special Edition - Page 3

to make it through security once. For the officers conducting security checks of the hundreds of prison staff and inmates daily, the odds are that despite their best efforts, someone will get something through. “Inmates returning from outside details will smuggle items into a facility inside their body parts,” said Myrick. “People will conceal cellphones in a piece of sod and then throw it over the perimeter fence where it won’t be noticed and can be picked up later. The methods of concealing and delivering items are so varied it makes it extremely difficult to intercept them. We conduct extensive training with our officers and support staff and are always looking at ways to improve, but “They can continue operation of criminal enterprises through outside contacts and in some cases, the phones have been used to threaten witnesses in their case.” no one will catch everything.” To help detect “throwovers,” infrared cameras have been placed around the perimeter at several facilities, and the foot- age from them has resulted in multiple arrests. Less frequent, but more troubling is the issue of staff members introducing contraband into a facility. While the vast majority of officers and staff are honest and conduct themselves with integrity, occasionally this is not the case. “Although the department conducts thorough background checks on all staff hired, sadly, at times, the temptation of easy money can get the best of them,” said Myrick. “Once a staff member makes the decision to engage in bringing contraband into a facility, that information can now be used by inmates to pressure them to continue bringing items in.” Employees bringing in cell phones or other contraband have reason to be fearful. Aside from the compromising position they have placed themselves in with inmates, the department vigorously prosecutes any staff member found to be bringing contraband into a facility. The arrests are made public and GDC regularly posts incidents on the GDC public website and social media pages. Bringing in contraband is a felony under Georgia law and is punishable by up to five years in prison. Though every effort at keeping them from getting in is made, once the cellphone is inside the facility the problems they bring go far beyond inmates having access to social media or making phone calls home. “A cell phone gives them free access to the world outside the prison,” said Myrick. “They can continue operation of criminal enterprises through outside contacts and in some cases, the phones have been used to threaten witnesses in their case.” With cell phones representing a significant threat to staff and the public, it would seem the simplest way to keep inmates from using them would be to render them ineffective. To combat the cell phone problem, the department has invested millions of dollars in cellular device detection equipment. Through body scanners, similar to those used at airports, are used to scan staff and visitors upon entry. Inmates regularly pass through portable Cell Sense scanners, designed to detect cell phones on their person. Cell phone access management systems block unauthorized cell phones from accessing the signal of major cell phone carriers, but at a cost of more than a million dollars per facility to install, phasing in the technology at all facilities will take time. Cell phone carriers are also reluctant to support the use of these devices for fear they will interfere with access to networks by regular customers in the area. So why not use a cell phone jammer instead? Jamming de(Continued on Page 4) 3