Contraband Cell Phone Cases Get Boost In Recent Months
In an effort to enhance our recent cell phone interdiction efforts within Maryland correctional facilities, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) has intensified our focus on prosecution of cases against inmates and staff found with the illegal devices. Our Internal Investigative Unit (IIU), starting in November of 2009, began working more closely with local State's Attorneys to not only better prepare for these cases, but to communicate with them the importance of making cell phone prosecution a priority.
Since that time, DPSCS has initiated a total of 92 investigations of inmates and/or staff found in possession of an illegal cell phone. For IIU to investigate a cell phone violation, the phone must be found on the suspect. Special concentration in the Baltimore Metro region, which includes Baltimore City and Jessup, has resulted in 77 of the department-wide cases falling into this area. A criminal investigator was hired in Fall 2009 to specifically deal with cell phone cases in the Baltimore Metro region.
Our most prevalent area for cell phone finds is in Baltimore City institutions, from which 65 cases originated.
In addition to the facts of the case, IIU identifies other key elements about the defendant such as gang related activity and connection to other criminal activity to assist a prosecutor with moving forward and prioritizing cases for prosecution. In March of this year the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office provided training to DPSCS correctional officers to foster effective investigations. Since the Department has taken this pro-active approach and opened lines of communication, there have been no cases declined by any of the prosecuting agencies.
With more focus on getting these cases to court, charging documents have been requested by IIU and issued by the courts in all cases assigned to the Baltimore Metro region that are not currently open investigations. While only nine cases have been adjudicated at this time, 77% of those resulted in guilty dispositions and one was nolle prossed as part of a plea agreement to other charges. Better background, evidence and preparation give the State's Attorneys a solid basis for their cases, thus improving the chances of a successful verdict from the courts.
In addition to better prosecution of cases, the Department is also currently in the process of procuring a cell phone forensics lab. Such a lab would give DPSCS staff the ability to not only extract, but to analyze data gleaned from confiscated cell phones. This intelligence can be valuable to disciplinary and prosecutorial actions.
The sale and trade of cell phones and other contraband is a root cause of violence within DPSCS institutions. Cell phones also have the added danger of keeping offenders connected with their former life of crime on the streets. Possession of a contraband cell phone within a correctional institution is a misdemeanor crime, punishable under Maryland law by up to three years confinement and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000. By tracking the results of our prosecution efforts and focusing on making successful cases, the Department is taking the next step in our efforts to remove cell phones from our institutions.
Cell Phone Finds
- FY07 = 741
- FY08 = 1,236
- FY09 = 1,658
- 67% increase from
FY07 to FY08
- 34% increase from
FY08 to FY09
Corrections FY06 vs. FY09
- 48% decrease in overall serious assaults on staff
- 55% decrease in overall serious assaults on inmates
Detention FY06 vs. FY09
- 71% decrease in overall serious assaults on staff
- 25% decrease in overall serious assaults on detainees
DPSCS Serious Assaults
- Inmate on Staff:
FY06 = 28, FY07 = 20, FY08 = 10, FY09 = 14
- Inmate on Inmate:
FY06 = 263, FY07 = 271, FY08 = 217, FY09 = 136