Our first look at the riots inside Holman Prison came from inmates who sent us videos from their smartphones.
Don’t reach for your reading glasses — you read that correctly. Inmates at a maximum security prison have the same smartphones you and I use, with a cellular signal to watch movies, post to their Facebook pages, and video chat with family.
During those chats, we asked the same question our News 5 viewers have been asking on the WKRG Facebook page: how do inmates have smartphones?
All the inmates gave us the same answer. The guards are selling them the phones.
“They empathize,” said an inmate who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “And the guards say I can make me some money.”
The inmates say the guards are selling them the phones at a premium price to “help feed their families.” News 5 learned that one phone was sold to an inmate for $500 and the charger for $150. The inmates pay the guards using prepaid gift cards that are easily smuggled into the facility.
“Most of the inmates are using the phones to talk to their families,” said the anonymous inmate.
However an inmate with a smartphone can be a dangerous thing. Inmates can use phones to do anything, such as continue to support criminal activity.
But the inmates say the guards also use the phones to “keep the prisoners busy and calm.” The more phones that are in the prison keeping inmates occupied, the less incidents the guards believe they’ll have to deal with.
30 smartphones were confiscated after the first riot on Friday, but the inmates say they’ll always be able to get more and find the best spots within the prison to keep them hidden.
“They don’t search for them as hard as they used to.”