By: Tod W. Burke, Ph.D., and Stephen S. Owen, Ph.D.

An inmate escaped from a Kansas prison allegedly with the aid of a phone smuggled in by an accomplice. In Texas, a death row inmate charged with killing four persons, including two teenage girls, allegedly used a wireless phone from within the prison to threaten a prominent state senator and his family. These incidents serve as just two examples where individuals used cell phones to facilitate criminal acts from within a correctional institution.

The authors have examined the real and potential dangers that inmate wireless phone possession poses not only to prison and jail personnel and other prisoners but to the community at large. Their study focused particularly on the methods of concealment, as well as prevention strategies, including detection and proposed legislation, to minimize the harm of cell phone use by inmates.