Mobile phones in prisons are used for a range of purposes, both social and criminal, and would appear to have become a significant feature of prison life. During 2013, 7,451 illicit mobile phones or SIM cards were reported to Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), formerly the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). This research project, conducted during Spring/Summer 2014, was designed to gain an understanding of what drives the demand for illicit mobile phones by prisoners, and to help identify potentially effective ways of preventing their usage.
Mobile phones were viewed as a feature of prison life across the custodial estate, although rarer in both women’s prisons and among the youngest prisoners. They were seen by Heads of Security to be creating significant problems within prisons and for prisoner management. Significant criminal drivers for the trafficking and use of mobile phones within prisons were reported, with mobile phones being linked to criminal activity both within and outside the walls. Alongside these criminal drivers, a significant proportion of demand was driven by social communication factors and the desire to stay in touch with family and friends.