Prisoner Sues Because Prison Confiscated And Destroyed His Contraband Mobile Phone

from the good-luck-with-that dept

We’ve seen plenty of stories over the past few years about prisoners getting contraband mobile phones — even to the point that many prisons have been asking for exemptions against mobile phone jammers. However, here’s a new one: a former prisoner in the UK is suing the prison system for destroying the contraband phone they discovered he had. He claims that the phone should have been just taken and kept in storage, but instead, it was used to train dogs, who chewed it up. Perhaps the rules governing the UK prison system are a bit different, but it’s difficult to see how any prison system should be expected to hang onto contraband for the prisoners until after they’re released. No word on how he got the phone in the first place, but perhaps it was specially trained carrier pigeons (or not).

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Comments on “Prisoner Sues Because Prison Confiscated And Destroyed His Contraband Mobile Phone”

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Anonymous Coward says:

A “contraband mobile phone” just means the prison rules say he can’t have it in prison, it doesn’t mean it is not his legitimate property or that it can be stolen by the police.

It’s difficult to see how any legitimate prison system could not hold onto the prisoner’s personal property and return it on release, but then this isn’t really journalism it’s jsut the Masnicks trying to get attention.

Mac says:

Re: Contraband phone

You obviously have never been to jail or had a friend go to jail.

With your reasoning if you were caught with say a gun or drugs I guess the prison should hold on to them so you can get them back when you get out?

Contraband is exactly that, contraband and if you are caught with it in jail it is confiscated, period along with some additional time to think it over.

I have problems with the police taking someone’s car or house or bank account on the premise that it was bought with drug money, there are numerous constitutional violations associated with such laws however, once you are in jail there is a LONG list of banned items and I have never heard or anyone getting something back that was confiscated.

And the only reason people didn’t go berserk over the confiscation of property in drug cases was that they were drug cases. If they were confiscating cars, houses, etc. over parking tickets the entire country would be in an uproar.

Well maybe not, the pansies that pretend their citizens don’t have enough guts to stand up for anything, let alone their basic constitutionally supposedly guaranteed rights.

Willton says:

Re: Re:

A “contraband mobile phone” just means the prison rules say he can’t have it in prison, it doesn’t mean it is not his legitimate property or that it can be stolen by the police.

Wrong. If an item is deemed “contraband,” it means that you had no legal right to own or hold the item in the first place. When contraband is seized, the contraband becomes property of the government, who may dispose of the contraband as it may wish. The prisoner has no right to property that it was never allowed to hold.

The government has no duty to maintain typical contraband like illegal firearms or illicit drugs, so why should the government maintain other contraband, like a cell phone in a prison?

Easily Amused says:

Re: Re:

Do you have any idea what the word ‘contraband’ means?

There are very good reasons for prisoners to be denied open and free communication with the outside, not to mention how many sharp pointy bits a cell phone could be turned into or concealing. All the possessions he had when he went in were put in a box for him, If he had this before, then he should have put it in the box. If, as the article states, he got it during a visit from his girlfriend, it was acquired illegally. Anything he acquired after processing that is against the rules is subject to forfeit, whether he owned it before he went in or not. What happens to it after that is none of his concern.

He thought he could get away with breaking the law 9twice apparently), and he was wrong. He got punished for it. he should take his lumps and move on with his life.

Ryan (profile) says:

the real problem

The real issue here is why are prisoners trying to smuggle in phones? Most prisons/jails are set up so that prisoners can only make collect calls. It’s lonely in there and i’m sure nobody likes to pay to talk to a prisoner.

If they’d set up a system whereby prisoners could pay for phone minutes, I’m sure it would alleviate the need for them to smuggle in mobile phones.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: the real problem

sorry dude but prisoners harass ex girlfriends, ex wives, ex co workers, dude that they think put them in there…

I know in the US they try to dial a random number and try to get the person to forward the call to the person they are trying to harass. There may be people put in jail wrongly… but there are plenty that deserve less than being able to kill time by harassing people.

Easily Amused says:

Re: the real problem

I am not trying to be rude here, but are you fucking retarded Ryan?

They are lonely… GOOD- It’s fucking PRISON, not vacation camp. They are there for a reason.

If “nobody likes to pay to talk to a prisoner”, then it wasn’t a very important phone call, was it? A big part of the reason for collect calls only is that the person receiving the call has the option to decline, before having to speak to the prisoner. This prevents abusive situations.

If you were as sympathetic to the victims of the people you are crying for here, you would have kept your finger off the reply button.

Anonymous Coward says:

“It’s difficult to see how any legitimate prison system could not hold onto the prisoner’s personal property and return it on release, but then this isn’t really journalism it’s jsut the Masnicks trying to get attention.”

“It’s difficult to see how any legitimate prison system could not hold onto the prisoner’s personal property and return it on release, but then this isn’t really journalism it’s jsut the Masnicks trying to get attention.”


In most places, it is a felony to possess a mobile communications device within a secure prison. Having committed another felony while in prison, the inmate forfeits all items used to commit the crime (i.e. – phone}. This means the phone is no longer the legitimate property of the inmate and the prison system is not bound in any way to preserve and return said property upon his release.

Devil's Advocate says:

It's wrong...

So, it’s ok for the government to destroy your property as long as you committed an offense. Hmmm…

Ok… so let’s apply the same logic to other things…

1) You get pulled over for driving too fast. The officer asks you to step out of the car, and then proceeds to torch it.

2) You are driving while talking on your phone and a cop pulls you over, takes the phone and smashes it on the ground.

3) Police come over because someone complained about the noise at your party. The police either a) shoot your stereo, or b) torch your house.

It’s completely ridiculous that any law enforcement agency should be able to destroy a LEGAL possession of yours because of an enfraction without the court’s approval.

It doesn’t matter WHO it is. As soon as you start saying one person has less rights that another, you minds well start goosestepping and marching people into the gas chambers.

What ever happened an unalienable rights?

Josh (profile) says:


I think most of you that keep harping on them destroying the phone as wrong are not understanding what is going on.

Especially Comment #10. I totally agree with you that police have no right to destroy something of mine that I LEGALLY posses. But the word legal is what is key here. As a prisoner it is ILLEGAL for him to posses a cell phone while inside of prison. If a prisoner obtains a cell phone while in prison and it is discovered, it is labeled as contraband (ILLEGAL TO HAVE IN PRISON).

So what all of you who say they prison should have stuck the phone in his possesion bag seem to be asking the officals to do is to save an item that was illegally obtained by the prisoner, and illegal for him to possess while in prison and give it back to him upon his release? What world do you live in? This would be the same as if someone stole your car, was arested for it, put in jail, then upon their release they demanded to have your car back because they stole it “fair and square” and it no longer belonged to you.

I just don’t get some people some times.

Tamara says:

Re: What about Other Contraband?

Qman, Shivs are a weapon and are illegal to have and to make. Entirely different to a mobile phone. You walk into a store carrying a shiv, you’ll be arrested. You walk into a store carrying a mobile phone, there won’t be a problem.

When people need to go to this extreme to prove their point, all it does is prove the other side is correct.

It wasn’t an illegally acquired phone. He shouldn’t have had it in prison, but it was his and it was legally acquired. Some schools allow mobiles, but others don’t. Should the schools that don’t allow them destroy the phones they find that students have at school? It’s exactly the same as destroying a phone they find a prisoner has in prison. They should have kept it.

Slackr says:

What a cry baby, this is nothing more than a fishing expidition to try and extract money from a system that punished him for doing something wrong. Boohoo your illegal phone got taken away and you couldn’t talk to anyone whilst in prison. Dang anyone would think prison was some sort of…punishment.

What is the difference between this item and drugs? Does he expect all his contraband returned to him upon release so he can shoot up immediately? Drugs would be disposed of and so was his phone. It pisses me off that legal system allow this sort of rubbish to continue.

ToySouljah says:

Re: Re:

“Does he expect all his contraband returned to him upon release so he can shoot up immediately? Drugs would be disposed of and so was his phone.”

Usually the drugs are taken by the guards and resold to the prisoners. I’m surprised the phone wasn’t kept and used by the guards either.

They could have charged other prisoners to use it and make even more money on the side. The guards in prison are usually pretty corrupt and looking to make a buck here and there. I have a friend that makes more on the side than he actually gets paid by the government…lol. Although, all this happened in the UK so maybe the guards over there are actually honest…lmao….yeah right.

Jan Tångring (user link) says:

Lynch mob rules?

I can’t believe the editor and I cant believe some of the commentators here for their disrespect for a society based on law.

A convict according to Wikpedia, is a “a person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court”

Being sentenced to prison means being sentenced to prison. Period. It does not mean being deprived of all your human rights.

It does not say a convict is a person subject to any form of harassement that anyone surrounding him might come up with. In particular it does not say convict is a person whose private property you are allowed to destroy.

You, sirs, are nothing but a lynch mob.

Some of you seem to have got stuck on the idea that the phone was “contraband” and that this implies it should be destroyed.

But RTFA: “the Ombudsman ruled that […] the prison service was wrong in not returning the phone”

Brian Evelich says:

Contraband phone

There seem to be a lack of understanding on the initial premice. Possession of the phone in no way implies legal ownership. Phones that are confiscated upon admission to a prison are placed in property or shipped to the home mailing address of the offender. This is the correct way to handle a “legally” possessed cell phone.

A cell phone in an inmates possession after his admission is in violation of institutional rules, local criminal statutes and basic security requirements to safely operate a prison. (Cell phones allow communication that circumvents recording, monitoring, and most importantly victim and witness access. Inmate phone calls are monitored to prevent drug trafficing, escape attempts, disturbances, etc. A cell phone is outside of the monitored system). Just as posessing a weapon or drugs in a school is illegal (even if you have a permit or prescription and legally acquired them) it is the fact that the cell phone is prohibited in the facility, not the fact that it may have been legally purchased that is the violation.

In the US, it is required that facility rules be provided to inmates during their orientation process. It is clearly communicated to offenders that possession of any item not authorized, (or modified from it’s correct and original condition: such as turning a TV antenna into a shank) constitutes contraband, and is subject to disciplinary action including the destruction and disposal of the contraband.

For those still struggling with the concept, THERE IS NO WAY TO “LEGALLY” HAVE A CELL PHONE IN PRISON. Your initial assumption is in error, it is never legal, therefore there is no legitimate claim for it being legally theirs.

A quick study of constitutional law will reveal there is no right to unmonitored communication in prison. There is protection to illegal search and seizure but in prison, all items are subject to search and seizure.

shaun (user link) says:

Mobile phones

I am an ex prison officer and would like to explain.

First mobiles are contraband and can’t be allowed because they breach security for many reasons. You can take pictures of the workings inside the prison. Take pictures of officers who often get attacked in public. Also phones can be left in places on voice record and act like a bug. Also prisoners are not allowed unrestricted access to the media which they could do with free roam to call anybody. There are logical reasons why media is censored. One example, a suicide watch prisoner could be pushed over the edge by particular stories, maybe they discover a death of a family member. In the case of a death in the family we have procedures where we as officers break it to them and then can put in place the necessary support and monitoring the well being of the distressed individual.

Also the reason I would suggest the phone was destroyed is because it has been inside and as mentioned above that phone could all sorts of info, like pictures from inside the prison, the locks. In the past keys have been duplicated from photos. They may have recorded radio operating procedures and anybody with a basic radio can operate on the prisons frequency. The list goes on but I hope you understand why there should never be phones in the prison and why they phone was destroyed rather than kept until his release.

You will be surprised how clever and resourceful inmates are and one mobile can collect, store and send lots of info with little or no restrictions.


jammer (user link) says:

cell phone jammers

with the development of technology and the popularity of cell phone using, many people just attach no importance to the etiquette of cell phone use. moreover, some people even use it to do some illegal and immoral things, so I think to get a cell phone jammer to protect our own privacy is justifiable. I just hit upon the website , they sell a lot of jammers, I’m thinking of buying one myself.

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