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How Much Would You Pay For a Cell Phone?

Earlier this week, I saw several articles regarding police intercepting individuals trying to introduce contraband into USP Atlanta, such as this one from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:


The officer was patrolling the area of New Town Circle in southeast Atlanta around 12:30 a.m. when he noticed a white Oldsmobile Alero parked near the fence surrounding the federal prison, Sgt. Greg Lyon with Atlanta police said Tuesday afternoon.
“He shined a spotlight on the vehicle,” Lyon said. “When he did so, he saw four individuals — all dressed in gray sweat pants, black hoodies and black gloves — that appeared to be up to no good.”
Three of the masked men ran out of the car and scaled the fence leading into the prison, Lyon said. But the fourth drove the car a short distance before running into nearby woods, according to police.
That’s when officers took inventory of the car’s stash, which investigators believe the four planned to smuggle into the prison. The contents included 24 cell phones, four 30-packs of Bud Light beer, three cases of whiskey, multiple bags of protein powder, and two loaded handguns, according to police.
Today I visited USP Atlanta. When I asked an officer about the story, he confirmed it was true, noting that cell phones reportedly sell for $2,500 within the general population. While that number may seem shocking, it is consistent with this story from WISH in Indiana: “They’re so valuable, inmates are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a single flip-phone, often knowing they’ll likely eventually be caught.” Referencing the scope of the problem within the federal Bureau of Prisons, the station adds:
The number of phones confiscated in federal prisons doubled from 2008 through 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. President Barack Obama signed a law in August of 2012 making possession of a phone or a wireless device in a federal prison a felony, punishable by up to a year of extra sentencing.
But, they’re still getting in.
According to the GAO report, in the first four months of 2010 alone, the Federal Bureau of Prisons confiscated 1,188 cell phones.