Sorry, but I can’t come to the phone right now; leave a message & I’ll call when I’m out of solitary

New Jersey is often the first state in landmark court decisions or progressive legislation, but for some reason state criminal justice officials have lagged behind in spotting and addressing crime trends. For instance, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced indictments of 35 inmates for having cellphones in state prisons. And guess what those inmates were using them for? A means of “escaping” the reality of four cold walls? Nope. Phone sex? Hardly.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

They’re using them for criminal activity! (And the crowd gasps.)

More than two dozen of the indicted inmates are members or associates of street gangs, Milgram said. Which ones? Why, the Bloods and the Crips, of course — which these days are nearly as old as the Jets and the Sharks.

“This is not what should happen when we put criminals behind bars,” she said. “The public has a right to expect that when criminals are locked up, they won’t be in a position to continue to generate crime and violence in their communities.”

The public also has a right to expect that authorities are aware of trends as they happen, not years later.

For much of this decade, cellphones in prison have been like American Express — as good as cash. Inmates have paid hundreds just to get one, then sold minutes to cellmates, called their girlfriends, and conducted business.

Jerry DeMarco (Publisher/Editor)

Check out this report from another news organization:

“Prison officials across the country say inmates’ possession of cellphones is a growing and serious problem. In recent months it has led to arrests or convictions of scores of inmates and of prison staff members who have smuggled phones to inmates.

“The authorities say they are concerned that inmates are using the phones to buy drugs, intimidate witnesses, plot escapes or oversee organized crime back home.”

The source? The New York Times.

The date? June 21, 2004.

It’s almost like a local newspaper editor spending his time trying to impress his wife’s friends instead of committing himself to real journalism — as in: finding out what the heck is going on BEFORE the news conference.

What apparently wasn’t of concern to New Jersey’s crack AG’s office this summer is that these are almost all prepaid phones. No names or account numbers necessary. Just pop in a number…. “One ringy-dingy. Two ringy-dingys. Is this the corner yo to whom I am speaking?”

New Jersey authorities, during their media conference today, said inmates hide phones in books, laundry and mattresses, often splitting up the device’s components — SIM cards, batteries and chargers — in different locations

“They’ll find any way they can to hide it,” one honcho said.

Really? What will they think of next?

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