What are the risks for those who use mobile phones in prison?

Disciplinary sanctions, criminal cases … However, the telephone in prison, often tolerated or even downplayed, can be costly for a prisoner.

Despite the ban, the phone is well installed behind bars in French prisons. “99.99% of detainees” have a mobile phone, even estimated this Wednesday on BFMTV the former prisoner Lamal El Pistolero, who became a rapper and radio host on Générations. For Avi Bitton, a criminal lawyer at the Paris Bar, the figure is likely to be lower, but “practice is widespread”.

“It is common for criminal lawyers to receive calls from prison from a cell phone,” he explains to BFMTV.com.

Some inmates are regulars on social networks: As our survey shows, some are even regular hosts “live” on TikTok, answering questions from Internet users about life in prison. What do they risk if their phone is detected?

• Exposed to disciplinary sanctions

If the detainees interviewed by BFMTV.com confirm that possession of a mobile phone in prison is often “tolerated” by the guards, the Prison Administration assures that “when mobile phones (…) are seized in the cell, the detainees are systematically subject to disciplinary sanctions”.

Article R57-7 of the Code of Criminal Procedure lists the disciplinary errors of a prisoner, which includes in particular the fact that “recording, fixation or recording in any way, images or sounds in an institution or (them) broadcast”.

When an arrested person commits an offense, the Disciplinary Committee may decide on several sanctions. He may receive a warning, be incarcerated in an ordinary single cell or placed in a “disciplinary cell”, commonly called a “mitard”, lists the Prison Observatory.

The detainee may also be temporarily deprived of his rights to “subsidies” (external transfers), his rights to purchase products through the “canteen” system (excluding hygiene products, correspondence and tobacco), his right to use objects rented from the administration (television, radio, etc.) or of an activity he performs during the detention.

• To be deprived of a reduced sentence

In addition to the sanction imposed by the Disciplinary Committee, it can be costly for the inmate to have to contend with the prison administration. “One of the biggest risks for an inmate who is caught with a phone and given disciplinary sanctions is that it could deprive him of a sentence reduction,” stresses attorney Avi Bitton.

“If he is sentenced to 10 years in prison, he can, thanks to the game of penalty adjustments, be released halfway through his sentence, ie after about 5 years. But if he has had disciplinary problems in custody, especially because he was caught. With a mobile phone, it can delay his release ”, illustrates the specialist in criminal law.

• Increase your file

Not to mention that an inmate can add his criminal record. “The detainee may also engage in illegal activities on the Internet, such as inciting hatred or threats, and thus committing further offenses,” explains Avi Bitton.

It also happens that “pirate” phones are tapped. Sometimes “in justice knows that the detainee has been given a laptop and that he is using it to communicate from his place of detention”, confirms Avi Bitton. “And justice will use these interceptions to expand the investigative portfolio. (…) This can feed investigations.”

“They are often people in custody”, so they have not yet been brought to justice, and “the risk will be great”, the lawyer emphasizes.

• Be the target of new lawsuits

If the mobile phone is often subject to great tolerance in prison, the penal code considers its possession of an inmate as secrecy. A crime punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros. In fact, it happens that detainees get a few more months in custody.

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