Well well, that swamp donkey investigator Tina Church knew that inmates had cell phones and spoke with death row inmates on those cell phones... hmmmmmm I wonder just how much she is involved, i guess time will tell.... i'm curious to see how this one turns out... Some of you might remember this woman from a few years back, she supports inmates and their families... She once even went so far as to call into KDOL radio and warn other inmates about lil ole ME! She went on the air - LIVE - and her words were something like "WARNING WARNING - to all death row inmates - there is a woman Pam who runs a PRO death penalty site and this womans wishes to see all inmates drop their appeals and take their execution, AVOID HER" or something like that. It was hilarious!! I had never laughed so hard in my entire life!!
Anyway, here is the recent article about the cell phones...
Texas prison cell phone smuggling blamed on inmate rings----Elaborate networks of prisoners and their supporters are main culprits, investigators say.
Authorities say they are closing in on at least 4 groups of convicts and their supporters — both inside prison and out — who are believed to have helped smuggle dozens of cell phones into Texas' death row.
And with arrests near in the high-profile investigation, details are surfacing about contraband trafficking inside state prisons.
The cell phone that condemned killer Richard Lee Tabler used to call a state senator probably was not his. It's believed to have been sneaked into the maximum-security Polunsky Unit near Livingston in East Texas by a convict who probably then "brokered" it to Tabler and other inmates for favors and cash.
Instead of the phone being smuggled by a single corrupt guard, as originally thought, investigators now say it and dozens of others might have been put in the hands of Texas' worst killers by an intricate network of supporters and their families who used code words, fake names, money transfers, prearranged drop sites and even a secret compartment at the bottom of a garbage can to get the phones inside what is supposed to be the most secure part of Texas' prison system.
Investigators say they believe several organized groups are involved in the trafficking.
"From the time someone puts up the money to get the phone for an inmate, there may be 6 to 8 sets of hands involved with that phone, 6 to 8 different people who do one thing or another," said the prison system's top investigator, Inspector General John Moriarty. "It's a convoluted, complicated network that's very difficult to trace. And it's going to be very difficult to shut off, because as soon as we bust someone, another person will step in and start it all over again.
"The demand is the problem. It's huge."
If nothing else, the new details explain why smuggling cell phones into Texas prisons continues almost unabated four months after Tabler's arrest triggered an unprecedented lockdown of the 154,800-inmate system, a new zero-tolerance policy on all contraband and an emergency request by prison officials for $66 million to upgrade security to curb the problem.
"You can stop contraband from coming into prisons if you want to," said Sen. John Whitmire, the Houston Democrat whom Tabler threatened. "It may be complicated, but they keep it out of county jails and federal prisons and airports. This is not rocket science."
Though they refuse to discuss details of any of the pending criminal cases, Moriarty and other investigators say the delivery relay — on and off death row — usually begins with an inmate asking a friend or family member for a cell phone, either in a letter or during a prison visit.
The friend asks around — usually with prison family organizations, those opposed to the death penalty and other affinity groups — and eventually gets in contact with someone who says he can get the inmate a phone.
They set a price, and money is sent to that person — usually by check or money order, often to someone in another state. The person buys the phone or has a roommate or acquaintance do so, paying cash and leaving a fake name or no name at all.
The phone, loaded with calling minutes, is then shipped to Texas — usually to someone who lives near the prison. The phone gets handed to a dishonest prison employee or is delivered to a prearranged drop site outside the prison, a landmark such as a tree or a telephone service box where it will be picked up.
In a prison, convicts do all kinds of jobs, inside and outside the fences. They mow the lawns, hoe the crop fields, take out the trash, cook the food, map the cellblocks and do the laundry.
Those workers, known as trusties and "support service inmates," go in and out through various gates and checkpoints. Similarly, traffic through outside perimeter gates bustles with delivery trucks, work crews and correctional staffers.
A trusty working in a field could be alerted by an inmate or a guard to pick up the hidden phone and deliver it to another inmate. For that, a contact in the free world would have $50 or $100 transferred into the inmates' trust accounts, which can be used to buy snacks and other items from the commissary.
"It might go through 2 or 3 more sets of hands once it gets inside, before it gets to the inmate who ordered it," Moriarty said. "Everybody would get a little something for taking care of it."
And once the phone arrived at death row, the inmate who ordered it would use it — or barter it to other convicts in his cellblock, arranging for family and friends in the free world to transfer money into trust accounts.
In recent weeks, officials confirmed, several convict accounts have been frozen as a part of the cell phone investigation.
"You track money. You track the calls. Neither is easy. It can take months and months," said one investigator, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
So far, authorities say, the Tabler case alone has involved "tens of thousands of pages of documents" that are being reviewed by more than a dozen investigators. Prison investigators even had to purchase special software to sort the electronic phone records because they were so voluminous, Moriarty said.
One target of the expanding probe, by her own admission, is Tina Church, an Indiana investigator known as the "Angel of Death Row" for her long-standing research work on behalf of condemned inmates seeking to win their life-saving appeals.
Though she acknowledges talking with Texas death row convicts on cell phones during the past 2 years, Church, 54, insists that she tried repeatedly — and unsuccessfully — to report the calls. "I tried to report it once, and all I got was death threats from the inmate," she said. "I'm a target only because my name was listed on those phone records, is all."
Moriarty and other investigators will not discuss the case or even say whether Church is a suspect.
Church said most cell phones are arranged and paid for by relatives and friends.
The current asking price for a cell phone, according to inmates and their friends: about $3,100, up from $2,100 last fall, before Tabler's calls to Whitmire and others exploded in headlines.
"I heard stories all the time about inmates accessing the Internet on the phones," Church said.
She said she has received cell phone threats from at least one condemned convict whom she dropped as a client.
"This whole thing is a cesspool," Church said. "I'm sorry I ever got involved in all this."
If the phones are difficult to track, current law gives investigators little help, those in Texas and other states say.
The problem is that the phones can be bought in large numbers at one time, and if the buyer pays cash, the store usually keeps no record of who bought them.
In the Tabler case, authorities used subpoenaed phone records to determine that minutes were purchased for the phone at a Wal-Mart in Waco. After reviewing store security camera tapes, they identified the purchaser: Tabler's sister.
Who bought the phone? "We're still tracking that," Moriarty said.
As many as a dozen different SIM cards — the electronic cards that allows the phone to operate and are roughly the size of a postage stamp — may have been used in the phone.
"If you think the phones are easy for convicts to hide, think about the SIM cards. They can hide those about any place: in the waistband of their boxer shorts, in a crack in the wall of their cell, places you wouldn't want to think about," Moriarty said.
When nearly 7 dozen brand-new cell phones were discovered last November rattling inside the air tank of a shop compressor being delivered to the Stiles Unit near Beaumont, authorities ran into a dead end trying to find out who bought them.
"We tracked it only because they used a credit card to buy the air tank," Moriarty said. "More ID is required to buy an air tank than 76 cell phones."
Smuggled cell phones have been on the rise in prisons across the country, according to news reports. The phones have been used from inside prison to order a murder of a witness in Maryland, to orchestrate a prison riot in Oklahoma and to arrange drug deals and threaten witnesses in several other states.
In addition to urging a change in federal law to allow the prison system to jam cell signals, prison officials in Texas and other states are pushing for a law that would require ID for any cell phone purchases. Such a move has been vigorously opposed by cell companies and large retailers that sell the phones, and so far no such change has been enacted.
(source: Austin American-Statesman)