The Dangers of Cell Phones in U.S. Prisons

If you’ve been following business news, especially within the corrections industry, you may have heard that cell phones are managing to find their way into many prisons across the country. On the surface, this probably doesn’t sound overly problematic; however, wireless communication in the hands of criminals can lead to devastating consequences. Such was the case for Robert Johnson, a former correctional officer with South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Institution. Johnson, who served more than 15-years as a correctional officer, was shot and nearly killed in his own home. And according to NBC Miami, the shooting was orchestrated by a prison inmate with access to a cell phone.


In his role as a correctional officer, Johnson was often tasked with confiscating contraband from inmates within the prison; during one of his inspections, he confiscated a package with a street value of $50,000-dollars. The same cell phone that was used by an inmate to orchestrate the delivery of the package was the same one used to plan, as well as execute, the shooting that nearly ended Johnson’s life. Of course, this is by no means an isolated incident; cell phone use amongst inmates is becoming more prevalent in state prisons. As a result, companies like Securus Technologies are investing heavily in technology that ensures the safety of prison personnel, and also, governs communication between inmates and the outside world.


If you’re unfamiliar with Securus Technologies, they are a Dallas-based company that specializes in criminal and civil justice solutions, aimed at state prisons. In an effort to reduce the number of crimes carried out by inmates, the company has collaborated with the FCC (federal communications commission) to launch a wireless containment system, which is intended to disrupt cellular signals even if an inmate manages to gain access to a cell phone. Obviously, because this technology encroaches on an inmate’s ability to communicate with friends and family, Securus has made it a point to ensure that they, as well as the prison systems that utilize this technology, are in compliance with the FCC.


Considering the number of inmates currently in state prisons, the likelihood of confiscating all cell phones is rather low. Wireless containment solutions is an effective way to monitor and disrupt phone calls as needed. Ironically, there was a time when cell phone use among inmates was unheard of; however, times have changed, and Securus Technologies has also changed with the times. In fact, the company spends over $600 million per year in upgrades to safety and security protocols, which ultimately benefits their clients.


So, whatever happened to correctional officer Robert Johnson? Well, he has made a full recovery, and he is a tremendous proponent of controlling cell phone use in state prisons. In fact, according to, an online news source, Johnson is scheduled to go before the FCC to share his personal story and his thoughts regarding why inmates should be denied cell phone access.