October 7, 2008
For More Information
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Beginning October 1, 2008, those who smuggle cell phones into Florida prisons may spend up to five years in a cell themselves. Those individuals may now be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, in accordance with F.S. 944.47. The statute was amended last year to include both cellular telephones and similar portable communication devices like hand held radios, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Blackberry-type devices, among others.
“Cell phones in prison pose a significant threat to prison security, because they are used by inmates to coordinate escape attempts, intimidate witnesses, introduce contraband like drugs and weapons into the prison and engage in numerous other illegal activities,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil. “This legislation is a good first step in reducing those problems within our institutions.”
Cell phones have also been instrumental in allowing inmates to collaborate with outsiders to continue running criminal enterprises from within the prisons and in promoting violence, extortion and serious disruption within the facility. As cell phone technology improves, and the phones themselves become smaller, they become more difficult for officers to find and easier for inmates to hide. Cell phones have been found nestled into the bottom of shower shoes, embedded in bars of soap and disguised as Walkman-like radios, which are allowed in prisons.
All inmates have telephone service readily available to them, but those calls are subject to being monitored by our Security staff, which inmates avoid by using illegal cell phones.
In FY 2007-08, 336 cell phones were confiscated from Florida’s 98,000+ prison inmates. Often, the cell phones have been found by one of the DC’s eight drug detecting canine teams, who have been instrumental in finding cell phones once they enter our prison system. The drug dogs are finding cell phones when they locate drugs, as inmates often hide them together.
Beginning in November, the Department will have another weapon in its arsenal to battle cell phone smuggling, a 14-month-old Malinois dog named Razor who has been trained exclusively to detect cell phones. Razor, who cost $6,500, was recently donated to the DC by the Animal Welfare Foundation of Winter Garden. She is currently undergoing eight weeks of training at Southern Hills Kennels in New Smyrna Beach and is expected to be in operation in Florida prisons in mid-November.