COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Department of Corrections is getting new technology that will find contraband cell phones within prisons. “What it will do is it basically triangulates, so we will be able to identify exactly where the cell phone is and go and get it,” says Corrections director Bryan Stirling.
Cell phones are contraband in prisons because inmates can use them to intimidate victims or witnesses, direct accomplices on the outside to commit more crimes, or coordinate the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and more cell phones into prisons. In 2010, an inmate used a contraband cell phone to put out a hit on the Corrections Captain in charge of finding contraband. Robert Johnson was shot six times but survived.
Another Southeastern state is already using the cell phone finder technology and Stirling says it’s working there. He says it will first go in four or five SC prisons where the most dangerous inmates are. The cost of the system for those prisons will be just over $1 million.
An inmate at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia recently posted to Facebook videos that he shot with a contraband cell phone. In the video, he complains about being locked down for days at a time, without being allowed to shower, and getting very little food.
Stirling says the department has to put some prisons on lockdown because there aren’t enough correctional officers. The agency has increased hiring efforts to reduce the shortage. But he says the lockdowns are also to search for contraband, like cell phones. Officers at Broad River recently found numerous phones, weapons, and drugs.
“When they’re on lockdown, when we’re searching, they’re not allowed to move around the institution, because if they do move around the institution that’s also how the contraband’s moved around. So, unfortunately, we do have to keep them locked down for a period of time. We try to do it as quickly as possible, but they are given three bag lunches a day, which is appropriate and is okay. And for the showering, yes, they are not allowed out of their cells. We need to focus on looking for the contraband, and they will be locked down and unable to shower for a period of time. It’s not too long, but it is a period of time,” he says.