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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ind. Gov't. - More on cell phones in prison

Earlier this month the ILB has two stories (4/15/10 and 4/20/10) headed "Federal prosecutors: inmate ran Indiana drug ring from prison." Last year, on June 2, 2009, the ILB had an entry headed "Prison Cell-Phone Use a Growing Problem."

Now Charles Wilson of the AP has a lengthy story, in the LJC, headed "Indiana prisons to use trace DNA to track weapons." Some quotes:

Beginning next week, prison officials in Indiana will begin using a new system that tests trace amounts of DNA left on “shanks,” cell phones and other contraband used by inmates.

The so-called “touch DNA” technology tests DNA contained in skin cells left behind where someone has touched something.

Officials from the state Department of Correction and Indianapolis-based contractor Forensic ID demonstrated the system Tuesday at the Indianapolis Re-Entry Educational Facility. * * *

Guards often find contraband hidden in common areas with no sign of who might have left it there, officials said. But using the kit, a guard can swab the weapon and seal the sample into an evidence envelope then sent to the Indiana State Police, who maintain a database of DNA samples from all state prison inmates.

“Knowing who you're looking for, you're halfway there,” Perez said.

The test requires only a minuscule amount of DNA — less than a grain of salt, he said.

Weapons aren't officials' only concern. Inmates aren't allowed to have cell phones, but more and more of them — even phones with Internet access — are being found behind bars, said Correction Commissioner Edwin Buss.

Officials said that's a concern because inmates can use cell phones to maintain real-time connections with the outside world, threaten outsiders and even plot crimes — like a New Castle prison inmate accused of running a methamphetamine ring from behind bars.

“Cell phones are a big problem to us,” Buss said.

Officials hope the new technology will be a deterrent, reducing the spread of contraband — which also can include drugs and cigarettes — as inmates realize they can more easily be caught and face a hearing at which they risk losing good-time credit so they spend more time behind bars. * * *

The kits are expected to cost the department about $50,000, with half coming from an Indiana Criminal Justice Institute grant. Inmates linked to contraband will be assessed the cost of individual tests, about $450, officials said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 28, 2010 10:25 AM
Posted to Indiana Government