You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myDaytonDailyNews.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myDaytonDailyNews.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myDaytonDailyNews.com.

State cracks down on cell phones in prison

Ohio spends more than $300,000 for device that detects phones


David Yander couldn’t be with his daughter when she gave birth in Florida several years ago, but he was able to celebrate the milestone with her by using a cell phone. He was an inmate in an Ohio prison at the time.

The Kentucky native who now lives in Dayton estimates that there is one cell phone for every five prisoners in the Ohio system. Inmates are not allowed to possess the devices, and the state has spent more than $300,000 in the past year to purchase equipment used to detect cell phones.

“Cell phones give inmates the ability to continue criminal activity from inside the prison,” said Lebanon Correctional Institution Warden Ernie Moore.

Traditional detection methods turned up 483 cell phones in Ohio prisons in 2013, but many more likely go undetected.

Yander, 41, says bootleg phones help prisoners stay in contact with their families.

“I was able to talk to my daughter while she was delivering; that is a memory for life,” said Yander, who was released from prison in November after serving 11 years for aggravated vehicular manslaughter. “We talk about it often. That bonded us even more.

“Inmates can still be fathers, they can still be husbands. The two visits a month, four visits a month, how can you still be a dad when most of the visiting hours are while your children are in school?”

The Department of Rehabilition and Correction is trying new communication initiatives for inmates — included monitored emails and video chats — but cell phones remain off-limits.

Moore’s concern about hidden phones is supported by the recent kidnapping of a North Carolina prosecutor’s father. The botched abduction — the prosecutor was the target — was orchestrated by an inmate using a cell phone. The FBI rescued the man in Georgia.

High-tech help

The new CellSense cellular portable detection scanners purchased by the state can be used in a variety of locations in the prison system. They are about 6 feet high and 5 inches in diameter with electronic sensors rising above the battery-powered base unit.

The devices are deployed in prison hallways when inmates are headed to meals or other activities. Inmates must line up and walk past a detector. When a red light flashes atop the pole, a corrections officer administers a patdown.

The state spent $311,632 for the 33 units, which are used in the state’s 28 prison facilities and four regional parole offices. One also will be available for use by the Special Tactics and Response team.

Other security changes in the prison system — which houses more than 50,000 inmates — include the installation of thermal cameras and higher fencing around the perimeter at some locations, plus increased patrols outside of prison grounds.

These measures have been taken to combat the ingenuity of prisoners and their visitors.

“You would be amazed at some of the stuff these guys come up with,” said David D. Webster, a longtime corrections officers.

Popular smuggling methods include using books and hefty legal documents with sections cut out to hold a phone. Webster said smuggling problems increased as cell phones began to get smaller.

One visitor to the Lebanon prison was caught with a phone inside a hidden compartment in their shoe. The exchange was discovered when he was observed trading shoes with an inmate.

Phones and other contraband also have been found after being tossed over the perimeter fence — sometimes in padded footballs or tennis balls — or dropped into a trash can in the visiting area.

An inmate found possessing a cell phone faces disciplinary action. People on the outside can face criminal charges for attempting to bring contraband into a prison.

Before the cell phone detectors were added to the state’s security arsenal, the system relied heavily on traditional methods, included K-9 units. Dyna, a 3-year-old Dutch Shepherd, is based at the two Warren County facilities. Investigator Mark Stegemoller continues to work with the dog to find the most common types of contraband, including cell phones, drugs and tobacco.

Stegemoller said the dog alerts him to the batteries inside cell phones, which give off a very slight odor.

“Their senses are 300 times stronger than ours when it comes to smelling,” said Stegemoller, who added that the inmates are aware of the dog, but never know where Dyna will be working.

Safety concerns

Not only do cell phones pose an immediate security risk, said Moore, they make it possible for inmates to threaten crime victims. He said when a criminal is sent to prison the victim expects that they are safe.

“Cell phones give that inmate the ability to continue victimization, whether it is through harassing phone calls or other ways,” Moore said.

Inmates in some states have even flaunted their cell phone access by posting videos on YouTube and Facebook.

The prison system is attempting to give inmates some options for communicating legally. A recently installed system in the Lebanon facility allows inmates to use a computer located near their cells to send monitored emails and make scheduled video visits with family members.

The video chats, which cost $9.90 for 30 minutes, are watched closely by authorities in the same manner as in-person visits. There also is a fee for sending emails.

Yander thinks the video visits will help, but he doubts the state will win its war on cell phones. He said smuggling phones into prisons is a lucrative business, fetching $500 or more per phone.

“I made sure that pretty much the entire time I was in prison I had access to a cell phone,” he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session
Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who...
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era
Rough treatment of journalists in the Trump era

For those concerned about press freedom, the first months of the Trump administration have been troubling. Journalists have been yelled at, pepper-sprayed, pinned by security and even arrested on the job. Now, one reporter has accused a Republican candidate of assault.   Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists...
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities
Leaks — a uniquely American way of annoying the authorities

  British leaders were infuriated this week when the name of the Manchester concert bomber was disclosed by U.S. officials, and further outraged when The New York Times ran investigators’ photographs of the bomb remnants. After Prime Minister Theresa May complained bitterly to President Donald Trump, he denounced the leaks on Thursday and...
Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury
Trump administration considers moving student loans from Education Dept. to Treasury

The Trump administration is considering moving responsibility for overseeing more than $1 trillion in student debt from the Education Department to the Treasury Department, a switch that would radically change the system that helps 43 million students finance higher education.   The potential change surfaced in a scathing resignation memo...
South Carolinian wants to grow medical marijuana in Warren County
South Carolinian wants to grow medical marijuana in Warren County

A South Carolina man plans to grow medical marijuana in Warren County. RELATED: Warren County anticipates medical marijuana cultivation action Anil Bhatara of Anderson, S.C., applied for a zoning permit to grow marijuana for medical use in a 3,500 square foot pole barn at 4258 Cox Smith Road, between Lebanon and Mason in Union Twp. SOCIAL MEDIA:Follow...
More Stories