Czech prisoners sneak mobile phones into prison

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Now, believe it or not, but more and more prisoners are sneaking mobile phones into prison, to keep in touch with their families and friends, and even to plan drug deals and other crimes. Although the prisoners can be punished or face fresh prison sentences, for many the temptation is difficult to resist. Alena Skodova has this report:

The Czech Prison Service says their guards have confiscated ten mobile phones from prisoners since the beginning of this year. They say a mobile phone allows convicted prisoners to keep earning money while they're behind bars. Maintaining contacts with their underworld colleagues on the outside, they can coordinate drug deals and other lucrative operations without leaving their cell.

The Prison Service says they take the risk of further imprisonment because they don't want to be broke when they return to normal life. They want money in their accounts when release day comes--they don't want to start from scratch.

But a mobile in the hands of those who are still awaiting trial poses an even greater threat. Sitting in a custody cell they're able to influence witnesses or fabricate new alibis to defend themselves later in court. They can also establish contacts with companions to help them to escape from prison.

There are several ways to smuggle a mobile phone into prison. One of them is bribing a prison guard to slip the phone into the cell himself. There was one case recently in Prague's Pankrac prison. The guard in question has since been relieved of his duties, but for many others--on poor state salaries--the bribes are often irresistible, even though they themselves face several years in prison if they're caught.

Even lawyers have been known to smuggle mobiles into prison. But there was only one such case last year, when a mobile was found in a lawyer's briefcase before he entered the cell. He said he forgot to hand it in at the porter's lodge.