Prison keeps up fight in face of ‘cellfies’

| 25/08/2015 | 20 Comments
Cayman News Service

HMP Northward, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The smuggling of cellphones into HMP Northward remains a constant battle for the prison management as inmates try various ways to stay in touch with the outside world. While smart phones pose a problem to prison security, as they can be used by inmates to organise drug drops and other crimes, such as witness intimidation, many prisoners are also are using them to take ‘cellfies’ (pictures of themselves in their cells) and posting them on social media sites.

Prison Director Neil Lavis told CNS that so far this year officers have seized 44 phones in foiled smuggling attempts or after they were found inside the jail. Phones as well as drugs are often thrown over the parameter fences, despite the modifications and increased security measures to the fence. Despite being a low security prison, HMP Northward is home to a significant number of high security prisoners, which presents real challenges for the management. For several years prison inspectors have pointed out the pressing need for a new secure prison in Cayman, a need echoed by the director, even though he recognizes that spending cash on jails is hardly a vote winner.

Nevertheless, Lavis is faced with the same problem found in many jails around the world — trying to stop phones and drugs getting inside the facility. He said that prison officers keep up the pressure by constantly searching cells, and when phones are discovered, the inmates in possession of them are charged and fined.

He also pointed to various technology-related security measures that the prison has invested in to help tackle the problem. Everyone coming into the jail is searched, including staff, but as Lavis pointed out, no security measure is foolproof.

Where phones are not found but the prison receives intelligence that inmates are posting to social media sites like Facebook, officers follow up. Where it is clear that a pictures is a ‘cellfie’, that inmate’s privileges are revoked and the page is taken down, Lavis told CNS.

The director said the trend in posting ‘cellfies’, which are clearly incriminating for the inmates, are not just stupid but sometimes intended as a signal of disrespect for the system and authority. Lavis said prisoners believe they simply won’t be discovered.

However, they are frequently caught, and although the prison does not have the resources to enable 24/7 monitoring of social media, it follows up on all possible reports of ‘cellfies’ and the use of the internet and the telephone networks by inmates.

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Category: Crime, Prison

Comments (20)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Northward is the Monster.com of cartel networking and fuels the high rate of recidivism in the territory. The maximum-security career criminals should be segregated and sent to an appropriate high-security low-enjoyment facility in a neighbouring nation. The carrying cost of loaning them out would be less than current, and would keep them away from low-security inmates. Longer term, a maximum security prison on the Brac might make sense – create industry over there and keep the posses at bay.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What is quite funny is that in these cellfies they all look like clones of third rate wannabe rappers. “Look at me, I am a tool devoid of individuality”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why not erect a very tall exterior fence around the entire perimeter of the prison with barbed wire on top of it and threaded through each loop of the fence which will prevent prisoners from being able to reach anything that might be thrown over the fence and it will also deter a prisoner from trying to escape or if he attemps to, he will be slowed down (perhaps caught) by the exterior fence.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Kim Kardashian is to be blamed for this!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Few days of isolation after pictures have been detected on social website may do the trick, or lock-down for everyone if someone has been caught with a phone???

  6. Anonymous says:

    Put the prison underground. Throwing over the fence is useless if the perimeter has motion sensors to detect movement of incoming objects. Prisoners allowed outside or above ground only for limited time. Eg one hour. It is a prison not a hotel. It should not be a nice place to go.

    • Cass says:

      Well said 10:59. but with all the “human rights” now we probably won’t be so lucky.

    • Anonymous says:

      putting up a golf net around the prison would be a lot cheaper than digging out an underground prison and having permanent water pumps running 24/7

  7. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps drones are being used to drop off these cell phones. Drones should be banned because anything good will always be also used for bad purposes. Next thing you know a drone will be used to should people!

  8. Anonymous says:

    This problem could be solved in an hour. The prison already has the equipment to jam cell-phones; it has not worked up to now because the government tower within the prison compound carries cell-sites for both Digicell and Lime. All that is required is for Government to mandate that these be turned off and the companies find a different location for their equipment.
    The received signal at the prison would then be weak enough that it could be swamped by the jamming transmitter.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Stop wasting $77,000 per year on one prisoner. How many persons are making that in salaries per annum? Let them eat what they grow and stop feeding them special cuts and providing name brand footwear and other specialties.
    They are supposed to be in a prison and not in a hotel. Where is the surveillance?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Can there be an elementary class on how to wear baseball caps? These poor souls look such fools wearing them the wrong way round. What happens when they are arrested again and there needs to be a photograph to go with a news story?

  11. Southsounder says:

    Is it not possible to “Jam” Cell phone signals within the perimeter of the Prison?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps if Northward entered at least the 20th century (21st century is too expensive/too difficult/too far in the future – take your pick + that’s a mid 20th century reference to Bob Danvers-Walker for those UK residents old enough+), they would understand that the provisions of such services as skype would allow many prisoners to keep in touch with their families who are not able to visit Northward.

    But, God forbid, that would drag Cayman prisons into the modern world.

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