Cell Phones in Prison: Are They Legal? How Can You Contact Someone?

Cell Phones in Prison: Are They Legal? How Can You Contact Someone?

It's tough to get in touch. The average cost of a 15-minute phone call from jail is nearly $6

That is one reason why many people advocate for cell phones in prison. Yet the issue of phone justice is a complicated one. 

Can prisoners have phones, and what laws affect their rights? What are some other reasons why incarcerated people should have phones? What are prison phone services currently like? 

Answer these questions and you can find the right way to contact your incarcerated loved one. Here is your quick guide. 

The Contraband Cell Phone Act

Congress passed the Contraband Cell Phone Act in 2010. It modified the criminal code in federal prisons, making a cell phone a "prohibited object." 

An incarcerated person in federal prison cannot use, possess, or own a cell phone. It does not matter what the purpose of their phone is. It does not matter if they have a phone because a prison guard failed to confiscate it or gave it to them. 

Even if they are just trying to contact their family, they have committed a crime. People have had years added to their sentences because they had a cell phone.  

There are additional laws that may come into effect. The Cell Phone Jamming Reform Act would allow state and federal prisons to buy jamming systems that would prevent phones from operating. 

State Laws

Many states have their own prison phone regulations. Most do not allow people to have cell phones while they are in jail.

Guests and family members cannot give cell phones as gifts. Guards may search them to make sure they are not going to give a cell phone to an incarcerated person. 

Judges have added decades onto people's sentences for having cell phones. This includes people who were serving time for non-violent or misdemeanor offenses. People being processed in police departments have received criminal charges just for holding their phones. 

The FCC has allowed state jails to trace and track prison phone calls. Yet they have recommended against using jamming technology. They argue that jamming phone calls can impede calls to 911 and between prison guards. 

There are a few jails that permit limited cell phone use. But these jails are few and far between. The ones that do allow the use of cell phones usually limit the time that people can use them. 

Advocacy for Cell Phones in Prison

Some advocates for prison reform are organizing to change the laws on prison cell phones. They point to how people have used contraband phones in jail.

While some people use their phones for illicit activities, others use them to contact family members and friends. Some of them have made videos to raise awareness of the poor conditions in jails. They have also used them to record music videos, especially for TikTok. 

Advocates also point to how efforts to restrict cell phones have failed. Many guards bring in phones and sell them to prisoners. Guests can sneak them in and drones can drop them into prison yards. 

There are a number of issues present in prison reform. Access to cell phones is a relatively small one. This means that progress on the issue may be slow, and incarcerated people should not expect access to phones any time soon. 

Prison Phone Calls 

The best way to communicate with an incarcerated person on the phone is through a prison phone service. Nearly all prisons have phone services so family members and friends can contact incarcerated people. 

Each prison has its own service with unique distinctions. If you are looking to contact someone in a particular facility, you should look up the facility and read their phone regulations. 

In general, calls are limited in time and scope. A guard can end the phone call whenever they choose to. Prisons record phone calls, and the recordings can be used against the incarcerated person in court. 

Some prisons allow incarcerated people to make video messages. They can make these messages on tablet computers that the prison owns. Many of the same rules apply to video messages, including the high expense. 

Finding a Prison Phone Number

In order to talk to someone in prison, you have to know where their contact information is. You may have documents on hand that show where a person is. But those documents may be out of date, as many incarcerated people move between facilities. 

You should conduct an inmate search. You may look at local, state, and federal prisons to track your loved one down. 

You can contact them through their prison phone number. You will get in touch with a prison official, and you can then arrange a phone call through them. 

Keep your phone call brief and do not talk about sensitive subjects. Feel free to talk about yourself or to sit back and listen to your loved one. Try to keep the conversation as natural as possible, and feel free to follow up with them in a letter or another call. 

Get in Touch With the Ones You Love

Jail officials are cracking down on cell phones in prison. Federal law prohibits incarcerated people in federal prison from possessing cell phones. Many states also prevent state prisoners from having phones. 

It does not matter if a person has not been charged with a crime. They can go to jail for years if they hold a phone. 

Reformers are working to change the laws. For now, friends and family must rely on a prison's phone service to reach their loved ones. 

You just need to know your loved one's information. Jail Exchange lets you find inmates. Contact us today.