Turning a problem into an opportunity

Hundreds of calls from death row; now a call to action

Two months ago, more than 60 cell phones were found secreted inside a compressor being taken into the Stiles Unit near Beaumont. And four years ago, investigators discovered that a prison gang member had been using a cell phone to conduct gang business from the Darrington Unit southwest of Houston, according to news reports.

Technology is available that allows cell phone signals to be jammed, but prison officials said they have been unable to get the approval of the Federal Communications Commission to do so.

The investigation began about two weeks ago after Whitmire and the American-Statesman received several calls from an unidentified caller offering information on abuse issues on death row. Within a day, Whitmire became convinced that the caller was a death row inmate, and he notified police.

Prison officials shouldn’t be trying to jam cell calls, they should be using triangulation and location-reporting software from the cellphone providers and tracking every single call that originates from an area in the prison where phones aren’t allowed. Start with traffic analysis, use that to get warrants for listening, and confiscating the phone will just be gravy. Seriously. The existence of the phone and the making of a call is already probable cause; what more could an investigator ask for?

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