Keeping inmates connected can be lucrative

Keeping inmates connected can be lucrative

The luxury of staying connected to the outside world from behind bars can be very expensive. A mobile phone can cost as much as Bt2.5 million (S$100,000), a spot where the phone signal is not jammed can cost a six-digit figure and inmates may have to pay Bt2,000 per minute for a phone call, it was revealed yesterday.

Deputy Permanent Secretary for Justice Ministry Chanchao Chaiyanukit told a press conference yesterday that 6,703 mobile phones, 1,280 SIM cards, 24,767 yaba pills and 2,839 grams of crystal methamphetamine had been seized in crackdowns in prisons across the nation over the past six months.

The ministry has also taken disciplinary action against 19 prison officials accused of being involved in narcotics - eight of whom were fired, while the rest suspended pending investigation, he said.

Some 10 officials are accused of smuggling cellphones into prisons - one of whom has been sacked.

The ministry has also transferred 59 prison officials - nine of whom were accused of smuggling drugs, six for smuggling mobile phones and 44 others for bringing in prohibited items.

Shooting devices over the fence

The press also heard a report about inmates getting members of their gang to smuggle drugs and cellphones into prison using different means, like tying the item onto an arrow and shooting it across the fence or firing the item into the compound using a slingshot.

Drones that can carry as many as three cellphones and controlled using Google Maps were also used to deliver items. The risks and difficulties of sending things across is believed to be a reason why cellphones can cost as much as Bt2 million to Bt2.5 million behind bars.

Once these cellphones are bought, inmates need to pay the supplier as much as Bt2,000 per minute for call, while the price of being in a spot not covered by the signal-jamming device can be as high as Bt100,000 to Bt200,000.

Inmates also adjusted the small-talk range for mobile phones to between 30 metres and 200m, so conversations can be had using headphones with the actual phone a fair distance away.

It was reported that the longest headphone wire was discovered at Ratchaburi's Khao Bin Prison - a maximum-security facility that housed many notorious drug traffickers.

It was found that payments were often made outside the prison.

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