January 19, 2012 12:43:00 PM
JACKSON -- Beginning in February, Mississippi inmates caught with cellphones will lose all privileges.
Also, they won't be allowed to purchase items from the commissary, the prison store and they won't be allowed to use the regular prison phone.
Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps tells the Clarion-Ledger that loss of six months' trusty time already is among the penalties.
Epps says "Zero Privilege Units" will be located at each of the state's three prisons -- Parchman, Greene County and Rankin County.
"We realize we have a problem and we are doing something about it," Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps said. "This will send a strong message."
MDOC's confiscation of at least 3,400 cellphones from inmates and Facebook pages created using smartphones from behind prison walls are behind the increased discipline, despite best efforts to keep cellphones out.
Cellphones are "the biggest contraband items that we have," said Epps.
"It's a national problem in corrections," he said.
Epps said over the past two years, at least two inmates were updating their Facebook pages from behind prison walls in Mississippi using smartphone technology on cellphones smuggled into them.
Last year, MDOC had 70 Facebook pages deactivated.
In October, MDOC officials contacted Facebook's corporate office and asked that the account of convicted murderer Jonathan Davis be deactivated.
Until that point, Davis, 27, had been on the page and updating it since he arrived at the State Penitentiary at Parchman in 2004. Davis was convicted of 2002 capital murder in Lauderdale County.
In November 2010, MDOC officials also had another convicted killer's Facebook page deactivated.
William Joseph Hogan, 30, had been corresponding on his Facebook page since he was sent to prison in 2009. Hogan was convicted of the 2008 murder of his wife in DeSoto County. Family members of the victim alerted prison officials to Hogan's Facebook page.
Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes has said the social networking site will work with law enforcement and other officials to shut down inmate Facebook pages.
In August 2010, MDOC launched the first cellphone detection/management system in the nation at Parchman.
The managed access system intercepts all incoming and outgoing cellphone signals and allows prison authorities to manage calls that are not allowed and those that are allowed by pre-entering the allowed cellphone numbers in the system.
Since its installation, the system has blocked about 1.8 million illegal cellphone calls and text message, Epps said. The system recently was upgraded to manage 3G technology, and a full-time managed access technician has been hired to maintain and monitor it.
MDOC is actively working with the vendor to install a manage access system at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl and South Mississippi Correctional Institution in Leakesville.
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