• Convicted felon contacts Channel 9 from inside prison using contraband cellphone


    A convicted felon serving time in South Carolina's correctional system contacted Channel 9 on Tuesday after watching an investigative report on local prisoners using Facebook Live from behind bars.

    [PREVIOUS STORY: 9 investigation uncovers prisoners on Facebook Live while locked up]

    The prisoner sent an anonymous email containing the phone number for his contraband cell and requested that Channel 9 call him.

    Channel 9 was able to independently verify the prisoner’s identification and lock-up location, but records show he's spent about two decades within various prison systems.

    When on the phone with Channel 9, he said he was resting on his bed in his prison cell within the high-security facility.

    "How do I have this phone?" the prisoner said. "I shouldn't have this phone. I'm in a prison."

    The prisoner said he paid another inmate $800 for his current phone and said most prisoners keep secret PayPal accounts that are funded by family and friends.

    He said he pays $80 per month for unlimited phone calls and text messages plus unlimited streaming.

    "(I use it for) gaming. Movies. Things of that nature," the prisoner said.

    Channel 9 asked why he reached out after watching the investigation and he said, "because at the end of the day things have to change."

    The inmate said there are corrupt employees supplying prisoners with the illegal cell phones and other contraband, including drugs.

    "It's very prevalent. It goes so far up," the prisoner said. "I believe it goes past the guards to the executive office where the warden's office are. Where the captains are. Where some of the investigators are."

    He said while some contraband cellphones are thrown over fences, he believes most are smuggled in by employees through the front door.

    South Carolina's executive director Bryan Stirling said that contraband cellphones and staffing are his biggest challenges.

    Stirling said he's working to increase prison staff salaries as a deterrent and will continue to fight for higher pay.

    He also acknowledges that some of his employees are part of the problem but they face serious criminal charges when caught.

    "We've got officers and staff that have been arrested for taking cellphones in and they're prosecuted by the authorities for that," Stirling said.

    Stirling and other prison officials across the country have been asking Congress for years to pass a new law allowing them to block cellphone signals from getting into correctional facilities.

    The inmate said that approach would quickly solve the problem.

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