April 14, 2014 10:03:43 AM
JACKSON -- Crime victims, soldiers and their families are benefiting from the Mississippi Department of Corrections' war on cellphones.
"People will use any means to get cellphones into prisons," Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said in a news release. "And MDOC will continue to distribute those confiscated devices to people who actually need them."
In 2013, corrections officials confiscated 1,746 illegal cellphones in its three prisons. Thus far, in 2014, the agency has over 511 cellphones.
Epps said those usable cellphones are distributed to nonprofit groups such as Cell Phones for Soldiers and a host of crime victims, crime victim advocacy groups, homicide survivors' coalitions, vulnerable adults and domestic violence shelters.
"We proudly accept the donated cellphones from MDOC. It is imperative that crime victims and their families have the support they need, and the cellphone donations are certainly welcome assistance," said Suzanne MaGee, with the Gulf Coast Women's Center for Non-Violence and chairwoman of Mississippi Coalition for Survivors of Homicide Victims.
"I lose a lot of sleep worrying about cellphones. We have proof they have been used in escapes, to put hits out on people, and for other criminal activities," Epps said. "But it's very satisfying when we can then turn that corruption into something positive for crime victims and our military."
Corrections officials use a variety of preventive measures to reduce the number of cellphones making their way into prisons, such as weekly searches for WiFi Internet signals at all prisons, netting around prison perimeters, increased searches, Managed Access Systems, Boss Chairs "body cavity detection systems," K-9 cellphone detector dogs, hand wand metal detectors, and walk-through metal detection systems.
Introduction of contraband into a correctional facility is punishable by three to 15 years in prison, a maximum $25,000 fine, or both. Conspiracy to introduce contraband carries up to a $5,000 fine, five years imprisonment, or both.
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