Cell Phones in Prison?

I know you can have TVs, radios, and such in prison… can you have a cell phone?

“Cluemobile? You’ve got a pickup…”
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Nope. Can’t have a calling card, either. All you can do is make outgoing collect calls on whatever phone service the prison is contracted with. And they have the right to monitor all your calls.


Seems to me that -any- phone you had in prison would be a -cell- phone.

Just last week, NPR had a story on prison phone service. Since only one phone company services a given prison system, and all the calls are collect, there is no reason to keep costs down; the prisoners’ friends and family end up paying more than twice the going rate for similar collect calls.

I think the companies are just out to make a buck, but they claim that the high rates are due to all the extra electronics they need to install on prison phones, to trace the calls and whatnot. Regardless, the inmates aren’t going to be allowed to call out on their own equipment.

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

What if a visitor brings a cell phone? Can they give it to a prisoner (for the duration of the visit, that is)? Are prison phone calls so expensive that it would make sense to bring cell phones to prisoners for a living?

Why can’t they just dial 1-800 Collect. or 1-800 CALL ATT and use a different service?

No visitors can’t let prisoners use phones during a visit. If you brought a phone to the prison they would make you store it away from the visitation area before going in to it. Part of the reason is because prisoners have restrictions on who they can talk to. Additionally, cell phone calls would not be able to be monitored.

Yes prison calls are THAT much more expensive, three or four times what you can get if you shop around for your long distance service. 800 numbers are blocked, so a prisoner can’t use those cheaper services. And, as I noted above, you can’t give them a calling card, either. Since they can’t receive incoming calls, you’re stuck.


I am sure the phone service providers do something to block that.

Just don’t take a call from them.


Yeah, collect calls are more expensive. And it really bites when you accept those charges. Also, at least in the KS correctional facility in Lansing, they not only have the right to monitor your calls, they record every call.

That said, I worked as an operator taking collect calls from prisoners, and some of them seemed to exist only to harass operators. I know that in the case of my employer, those prisoners were also cited as a reason for the higher rates. Sucks that some can make everyone’s life more difficult. And, yeah, prison phones do indeed have lotsa stuff that costs more (blocks, etc), but so do a lot of payphones in other areas. I think that the reason prison calls are more expensive is a mixture of greed and inertia. “Hell, everyone else has always done it, why shouldn’t we?”

Also, Jeffery, some people have relatives, friends and loved ones in prison. If you’re not able to visit when you’re allowed, then a telephone call is the only option available to hear their voices.

Flick Lives!

Melin, you seem to know about prison life. So, what about all these luxurious accommodations I’m always hearing about.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

Mangeorge, as a volunteer, as a law student, and as a lawyer I’ve visited or worked in detention facilities all the way from juvenile hall to San Quentin Prison (where I ::shudder:: had the opportunity to view the gas chamber far too up close and personal).

Most of my knowledge about things like phones, though, comes from the fact – well known to the “old regs” around here – that my brother-in-law is currently sitting in a medium-security facility in Southern Illinois (having been moved from a maximum facility in the same area last December). Thus I have personal experience with paying the incredibly inflated collect phone charges. It at least gives me the opportunity to discuss with my kids how unfair it really is, that we can afford to talk to Uncle several times a month just because we have the money, while some kids don’t get to talk to Daddy at all.

It is my opinion – and if this thread veers this way I’m sure it’ll move to Great Debates – that there are some people who, unfortunately, we simply need to keep locked up, to protect ourselves from them. It is also my opinion, however, that the money spent keeping a large number of people in prison, where they are non-productive and not rehabilitated, is wasted, and would be better spent on education and training.

My brother-in-law is one of the lucky ones. He’s got a family to stand beside him, take his calls, visit when possible (my in-laws drive up to Illinois from Kentucky at least once a month), send him books and money for the commissary, and, most importantly, be able to provide for him and help him get back on his feet when he gets out. He’s got a college education and a lot of skills, which, sadly, will be quite rusty when he gets out (they’re not putting him in charge of the prison computer system, y’know?), but which he ought to be able to bring back up to speed after getting out, and eventually be able to support himself again. Most of the guys walking out of prison don’t have the education, or the training, or the support (emotional or financial), to “go straight,” and thus they don’t seem to have too manny options except to make what we consider bad choices.

Inside is a nasty place. I try not to think too much about it, and thus you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t really describe what I’ve seen and heard here. I tell you, though: I got a closet bigger than the cell my brother-in-law shares with another guy.


“Inside is a nasty place. I try not to think too much about it, and thus you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t really describe what I’ve seen and heard here. I tell you, though: I got a closet bigger than the cell my brother-in-law shares with another guy.”

Melin, I hope you didn’t misunderstand my post. It was meant to be “tongue-in-cheek”. I grow tired of hearing people imply or state that life inside is anything other than “nasty”. I also have a couple of relatives in prison, a brother and a cousin.
I’m sorry if my question caused you pain.

If 800#'s are blocked why can’t they dial 10ATT0 that will get them an AT&T operator? Or how about 103330 that is MCI. Or Sprint?

We used to have blocks on the phone at the hotel. (I was the PBX Supervisor) it’s not hard to get around them. Heck I could dial 0 and ask them to connect me to Sprint. Of course that costs more. But it still may be cheaper than those outrageous calls…

Also what about Minimum security prisons?

Here’s a commercial site that’s recently come to my attention:


(God I hope that works to make a link! I only had just learned how to make links before I stopped posting to the board, and I’m out of practice!)

Pay particular attention to “Products” and “Testimonials.”

Oh yeah, I’ve also heard that the prison makes a commission off these overpriced calls, though I have no proof of that, only hearsay.

Sorry Mangeorge, no offense taken – I guess I was too tired and missed the tongue-in-cheek tone of your post.


Cell phones and prison. Oh I just got that. That is kind of funny. OK so I’m slow :slight_smile:

Markxxx: The reason that they can’t dial 10-10-288, or anything else is due to the blocks that are placed on the payphones. And I know about getting around hotel blocks, those in prison (as I understand it), are set up so as to completely block access to anything.

I dunno about minimum security prisons, but I can’t imagine that it would be all that terribly different.

Also, 10-10-333 is Sprint.

Flick Lives!

I’m speaking here of the New York State prison system, but I imagine many other systems are similar.

Cell-phones are right out. Not only are inmates and visitors prohibited from having them so are employees. Even cordless phones are banned in prison. So are computers, CD players, tape recorders, FM radios, and a number of other devices most people take for granted.

Any inmate who wants to call outside the prison must do so by collect calls. They have to have the name and phone number of the person they are calling placed on a list of people they are approved to call and then the information is placed on a computer. Each inmate has a PIN which he must enter when he makes a call. The computer then verifies that the number he is dialing is on his approved list. There is a recorded message that says: “This is a collect call from {state your name} an inmate in a New York State Correctional Facility. Do you accept the call?” This message is also available in Spanish.

Theoretically this system would prohibit any prisoner from calling anyone who did not accept the call, did not know they were an inmate, or generally did not want to speak to them. However, there are people who get third party phones so that the prisoner can call them, they accept the call, then they dial any number the prisoner requests and put the call through.

Yes, the charges are very high. The system is bid out and most of the quotes are high. Approximately five percent of the money collected is returned to the state and this is used to pay for inmate recreation like TV’s and VCR’s, visiting services, sports equipment, etc. And yes, we have the ability to monitor and record all phone calls, but I won’t discuss the actual procedures we use.

And actually, the majority of prisoners do not live in cells.

“And actually, the majority of prisoners do not live in cells.”
—Mike King

What, then, are their accommodations? Barracks, I presume.

as a corrections officer myself i can think of several reasons cell-phones should not be permitted:
1.since it is impossible for the monitoring of cell-phones by the prisons, that would enable inmates to possibly continue their lifes work of drug deals or maybe contract hits on prison staff, or perhaps if an inmate
is being transferred to another facility (which happens quite often.) they could arrange rondezvous points with there friends to maybe arrange an escape. So the idea of cellular phones in the prison system would be
not only asinine but also very detrimental to the security of the institutions and the safety of the public!!!

2.Don’t worry, psycat90, I don’t see a popular movement out there to give cell phones to prisoners. The gist of this thread seems to be that it’s unfair to add the burden of exorbitant phone fees to the burden already carried by prisoners relatives.