June 24, 2009
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The Florida Department of Corrections’ dogged determination to remove contraband cell phones from within its prison walls is about to get a helping hand, or nose, with the addition of its second cell-phone sniffing dog, Uno.
A four-year-old male German Shepherd, Uno joins forces with two-year-old female Malinois Razor in the DC’s ongoing battle against cell phone smuggling in prison. Razor has been on the job since November 2008, and Uno just started this month.
“Cell phones in prison can be just as dangerous as weapons because they are used by inmates to coordinate escape attempts, run criminal enterprises, extort other inmates, intimidate witnesses, and introduce contraband like drugs and actual weapons into prison,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Walter McNeil.
The funds to purchase both Razor and Uno were donated by the Animal Welfare Foundation of Winter Garden. The Foundation also provided funds for vehicles and car kennels for both dogs. The dogs, who trained for eight weeks at Southern Hills Kennels in New Smyrna Beach before going on the job, cost $6,500 each. Since January, they have already discovered a combined 19 cell phones at prison facilities statewide.
Those who smuggle cell phones into Florida prisons may be charged with a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, in accordance with s. 944.47, F.S. The statute, which went into effect on October 1, 2008, expands the definition of contraband to include cellular telephones and similar portable communication devices like hand held radios, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Blackberry-type devices, among others.
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 monitored by Security staff, which inmates avoid by using illegal cell phones.
Since January 2009, 300 cell phones and 84 chargers have already been confiscated from Florida’s 101,000 prison inmates. Many of the cell phones have been found by one of the DC’s eight drug detecting canine teams, who often find cell phones and drugs in the same location, as inmates regularly hide them together.