Most people agree that inmates need support whilst in prison. Regardless of their crime, regular contact with loved ones is an integral part of their rehabilitation process – and without this contact, inmates can swiftly become isolated, depressed or in extreme cases, violent or suicidal.

Smuggling mobile phones into prisons across the UK is commonplace. Indeed, only last month, HMP Pentonville seized a haul of mobile phones, dropped over the wall by drones. Thousands of inmates are in possession of an illegal mobile phone – and whilst some use their phones to call family and friends, others put them to far more sinister use.

mobile phones in prisonThe Rising Problem of Illegal Mobile Phones

Last year, close to 15,000 illegal mobile phones were seized in UK prisons. Currently, they’re fairly easy to smuggle into prison – and inmates are using them for a variety of different purposes.

  • Connecting negatively with the outside world. Illegal phones allow inmates to be far more active on social media – as could be seen recently, when two teen inmates from Birmingham posted ‘selfies’ of themselves, gloating about the murder they’d committed. This not only caused the family of the victim considerable distress, but also gave the prisoners worrying levels of exposure in front of a potentially easily-influenced audience.
  • Blackmail. In June, inmates from HMP Featherstone used their illegal mobile to extort £1,500 from a fellow-prisoner’s family; with the threat that their son would be hurt if they didn’t pay up. The victim’s mother commented: “I’ve had calls from mobile phones smuggled inside – they’ve all got them.” She added: “We get phone calls asking for cash or bank transfers, but the beatings still go on.”
  • Violence. In recent months, numbers of violent incidents (filmed using illegal mobile phones) have increased. The ‘Fight Club’ style videos are then shared on social media. In some of the videos, prisoners are shown being violently beaten or humiliated.
  • Illegal activity. Some inmates use their mobile phones to conduct illegal activities. Inmate Izzet Eren used his handset to arrange for a gang to free him from HMP Wormwood Scrubs, and Alexander Mullings arranged the importation of machine guns whilst in HMP Wandsworth – via his mobile phone.

Taking Action

The government now recognise the severity of the problem and have taken steps to address the issue. New measures introduced in August will allow prison officers to cut off illegal mobile phones; which reduces the need for staff to physically have to find the handsets.

This is a step in the right direction and should reduce the number of incidents of mobile phone abuse behind bars. However, it fails to take into account the inmates who use their mobile for more legitimate reasons – i.e. staying in contact with their family.

Improved Phone Services?

At present, prisoners are faced with an unenviable decision. They can use an illegal phone, and risk the consequences – or they can use the communal phones. However, communal prison phones can prove problematic. They’re often out of order, and loved ones often don’t know when the inmate will call – which increases the risk of them being out at the time. Prisoners are reluctant to call mobile phones from the prison landline, as it’s expensive to do so. Even a five-minute chat can use up as much as a third of their weekly prison allowance.

Prison Phone Tariffs

In the meantime, Prison Phone hope to provide a solution. Our low-cost packages let inmates call mobile phone numbers from the prison payphones, at a fraction of the cost. To view our tariffs, simply click here.


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Keeping prisoner’s and families connected


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