Thursday, March 4, 2021

Cell phone service providers implicated in prisons contraband conspiracy

Investigations by Botswana Prisons Services have unveiled a contraband conspiracy between prison waders, cellular phone services providers and prison inmates that is frustrating efforts to keep cellular phones out of prison cells.

Although cellular phones are illegal in prison, contraband cell phones smuggled inside prison by waders are being used by inmates in Botswana prisons to intimidate witnesses and mastermind criminal activities from their prison cells ÔÇô prison authorities revealed this week.

It emerged that the cellular phone contraband network is made up of cellular phone service providers who are involved in the illegal sale of unregistered SIM cards and prison waders who smuggle the cellular phones for inmates. Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) spokesperson, Jerry Kokeletso this week warned that they will be taking action against cellular phone service providers found to be selling unregistered SIM cards. This follows reports that inmates were using unregistered SIM cards to mastermind criminal activities from behind prison bars. There are fears that cellular phone service providers may be colluding with criminals. He explained that cellular network companies are required by law to register prepaid SIM-cards sold to customers.

Kokeletso says it is a criminal offence for cellular network companies and retailers to sell pre-paid SIM cards that are not registered. He said service providers and retailers are required by law to register the owners of SIM cards for security reasons.

Botswana Prisons Service Public Relations Officer, Senior Superintendent, Wamorena Ramolefhe confirmed the rising number of cases where inmates are found in possession of the cellular phones in prison. He explained that they have established that these cellular phones are used to carry a number of criminal activities outside prisons. “We have since dismissed a number of prison warders because they were conniving with inmates to smuggle cellular phones inside prison.” Ramolefhe however would not comment on the issue of unregistered SIM cards saying it borders on security. He also would not disclose the cellular phone service providers found to be selling unregistered SIM cards.

In a bid to fight the illegal use of cellular phones in prison, the Department of Prisons recently announced that it has budgeted for the procurement of cell phone jamming technology which is illegal in Botswana. The technology has been caught up in controversy throughout the world also because it is reported to interfere with mobile 9-1-1 calls and critical public safety radio communications. American communications officials have expressed concern about jammers bleeding interference outside the prison and disrupting police and firefighter frequencies which are close to cell phone frequencies.

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