Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mobile Phones in Prisons

The ‘Census of Population and Housing 2011’, the 14th National Census of Sri Lanka was completed in 2009/2010 and the enumeration stage of the census was carried out in February‐March 2012. As per its findings Sri Lanka had 20.2 million population at the end of 2011. Also the latest statistics released by TRC shows that Sri Lanka has 19.6m Mobile Subscribers, resulting 95.1% penetration by September 2012 (probably with the assumption that population has increased by 0.4m during 2012). Anyway it shows how widely mobile phones have spread within the society. A recent article by CNN covered how mobile phones are being taken in to the prisons and used by prisoners.

A mobile phone and a hands free kit are seen in an X-ray of a Sri Lankan prisoner (Photo courtesy of CNN)

58-year-old G. Siripala, a Sri Lankan prisoner serving a 10-year sentence for theft, was escorted by armed prison officials to Colombo's National Hospital with severe back pain, doctors rushed him for an X-ray. Doctors thought he might have orthopaedic complications, a source familiar with the matter. "But the X-ray showed a cell phone and two hands-free kits." Medical staff prepared to carry out a surgical procedure on the prisoner, the source said.

"However, the man said 'Sir, sir, please give me a moment.' He coughed, wriggled, shrugged his muscles and the items fell on the ground," the source said.

The awkward incident reveals how Sri Lanka's prison officials discovered the latest round of phone smuggling into the high security Welikade Prison, in the northern sector of the capital, Colombo. The prisoner explained his situation to the doctors, recounting how had been chatting on the cell phone with a relative when prison officials carried out a surprise check on his ward, the source said.

"He had no place to hide it. So he thrust it in his rectum together with the two hands-free kits," he said of the prisoner. At nighttime, to avoid detection, the prisoners cover themselves with a bed sheet, hide the phone near the body and use the hands free kit, the source added. Siripala's undoing came when the person he had been speaking to rang back. The ringing tone came from his back and prison officials grabbed him, the source said. Smuggling of cell phones into prison is an all-too-common occurrence, forcing prison officers to use hand-held detectors, Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili told.

"Most prisoners, particularly when they are taken to courts for cases, return with mobile phones given by outside parties. We have minimized the problem and are on the alert and catch them when they come in," said Kodippili, who is in charge of all of Sri Lanka's prisons.

Kodippili said jammers have been installed in prisons. However, one mobile phone operator had a tower near Welikade Prison and this was causing a technical glitch. Sources had revealed that some prisoner carryout finical transactions using mobile phones. Anyway all those would not be possible once authorities introduce body and parcel scanners very soon.

(based on a news article released by CNN)


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