How smuggled mobile phones are rewiring Brazil’s prisons


It’s easy (for me) to become discouraged about the surveillance state the US (and lots of other countries) has become. How can you resist an entity like the NSA? Perhaps, in the long run, we cannot. But in a twisted way, stories like the one below give me hope.

In Cell to Cell: How Smuggled Mobile Phones Are Rewiring Brazil’s Prisons, Jonathan Franklin describes how Brazil’s prison gangs are using technology.

Wired prisoners change the entire concept of incarceration. Instead of being isolated and punished, the inmate with access to a cell can organize murders, threaten witnesses, plan crimes, and browse online porn to figure out which escort to order up for the next intimate visit. […] Brazilian organized crime leaders continued to have widespread ability to make calls, receive calls, organize conference calls, and even hold virtual trials where gang leaders from different prisons are patched in to a central line to debate the fate of gang members accused of betraying the group’s ironclad rules.

Yes, I get that the gangs are committing awful crimes. But then, so are oppressive governments. We can talk about Right and Wrong at Sunday School, this is about technology.

Old Cole County Jail

Cole County Sheriff Greg White took time from his busy schedule to give +George Kopp and me a tour of the old Cole County jail which was in use until two years ago, when the new jail was completed. The old jail was designed to house 52 prisoners but was housing as many as 98 by the time they moved to the new facility. Not good. A portion of the old jail is still used for holding prisoners when hearings are held in the attached Cole County Courthouse.

The Missouri State Penitentiary

“The Missouri State Penitentiary, also known as “The Walls”, was a prison in Jefferson City, Missouri that operated from 1836-2004. Prior to closing, it was the oldest operating penal facility west of the Mississippi River. It served as the State of Missouri’s primary maximum security institution. The current Jefferson City Correctional Center was opened on September 15, 2004, replacing the Missouri State Penitentiary.”Wikipedia

My first tour of the old prison was prior to 2004 so the inmates were still there. A very different place than the empty cells and halls we toured in 2008 (photos).

Mark Schreiber — our guide in ’08 — was once a corrections office and, at one time, Associate Superintendent at the penitentiary. He’s also and avid historian and the co-author of Somewhere In Time: 170 Years of Missouri Corrections (out of print I’m afraid).

I regret I didn’t record the full tour because it was fascinating. As you will see from the excerpts above.

Ohio prison rules could limit inmates’ last words

The final words of condemned prisoners in Ohio could be edited or shortened under new state prison rules announced Thursday, six months after an inmate recited prayers for 17 minutes before he was executed. The man apologized for his crime, then recited the rosary and other prayers before he died, choking back tears as he repeatedly said the Hail Mary with rosary beads in one hand. At 17 minutes, it was the longest final statement by a condemned Ohio inmate since executions resumed 11 years ago.


Sort of The Final Filibuster