Cellphones bring Mexican style prison extortion to US pens

Jan 2nd, 2013 | By | Category: Cell phones, Prisons & Confinement, Security, Spotlight

Inmates in Georgia are now using contraband phones to extort money from families of at-risk offenders.

Inmates in Georgia are now using contraband phones to extort money from families of at-risk offenders.

Inmates extort money from outside prison

Rhonda Cook | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

First there was a picture sent to Jimenna Whitner’s cell phone of her brother, who was bloody and beaten.

Next, she got a text message from somewhere inside Baldwin State Prison 950 miles from her home in Michigan, demanding $1,000. Otherwise her inmate brother, Thomas Maher, would be killed.

…Whitner found a way to pay the inmates who had allegedly punched and kicked her brother, a convicted rapist, for about two hours in a cell block shower. She raised the money from relatives and paid the inmates through “Green Dot” cash cards that carry VISA or MasterCard logos…

Corrections officials say they have found nothing to support individual claims of extortion. But they concede the ongoing problem with cell phones, which are not allowed in prison, makes it easy for inmates to continue to prey on others…

Three families of inmates in two Georgia prisons told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution their extortion stories. In each instance, a brutal picture taken with a cellphone and a threat are followed with instructions to pay up.

“His right eye socket looked to be punched in,” Whitner said. “He told me his teeth were lose. His nasal passage on his right side was punched in…” (Full text at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

This very scam is undoubtedly being perpetrated here in our prisons. In that context, it is incumbent upon the Agency and each individual officer to redouble efforts to eliminate the cellphone threat. The same goes for each county jail.

It is only a matter of time before the contraband cellphone introduces another Mexican Prison staple to California: Coordinated mass escapes — Unless and until we eliminate the threat, the likelihood of a major incident increases by the minute.-

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2 Comments to “Cellphones bring Mexican style prison extortion to US pens”

  1. Keeley Stevens says:

    After retiring as a Sgt. from Folsom in 2006 I moved to my home State of Michigan in 2009. I applied for and was accepted for the position of Captain at this prison in Baldwin. Since there wasn’t much housing there and it was a two hour drive from my house, I turned down the job. Good thing I did after reading this! Looks like they have a few problems there!

  2. Bob Walsh says:

    Free enterprise and creativity are alive and well, even in prison.