Contraband in Prison: Sam Mangel, Federal Prison Consultant

Ins and Outs of Contraband in Federal Prison Camps, and Why a Consultant Can Help

Access to cell phones and other contraband in federal prison camps, despite being strictly prohibited, occurs through various illicit means. The smuggling of these items is a serious concern for prison administration due to the security risks they pose. The methods by which inmates obtain contraband can include smuggling by visitors, corrupt staff members, through mail, or outside associates throwing phones over the fences if these even exist at the camp.

While smuggling in a cell phone may seem small compared to say, a weapon, it is important to note that prison authorities do not significantly see a difference: contraband is contraband, and there are serious consequences for inmates found possessing illegal items:

  1. Disciplinary Action:

Inmates caught with a cell phone or other contraband typically face immediate disciplinary action. This can include loss of privileges (such as visitation, phone and email privileges or commissary access), solitary confinement, or transfer to a higher security facility.

  1. Extended Sentence:

Inmates may receive additional charges that could lead to an extension of their current sentence.

  1. Loss of Good Conduct Time:

Federal inmates can earn good conduct time, which can reduce their sentence. Being caught with contraband can result in the loss of this earned time as well as any earned time credits accrued prior to the infraction.

  1. Criminal Prosecution:

Possession of a cell phone in a federal prison can lead to new criminal charges, which might be prosecuted in federal court, resulting in additional sentencing upon conviction.

  1. Impact on Parole or Future Hearings:

Such infractions can negatively impact parole hearings or any future considerations for early release. Getting caught with contraband can negatively impact an inmate’s chances for parole or eligibility for early release programs. It reflects poorly on their rehabilitation progress and compliance with prison regulations.


For family members and friends of federal inmates, there are also considerable risks for helping to smuggle contraband into a prison. Depending on what the contraband is, the government may even bring criminal charges against non-inmates, and it is almost guaranteed that they lose visitation rights, even if no charges are brought.


To that end, while the urge to communicate with the outside world, or with your incarcerated loved one, please remember that the consequences are not worth it, both for those behind bars, and their family or friends outside of it.

If you or a loved one will soon be incarcerated, please note that there are many legal ways of keeping in touch while behind bars, and while it may not be as frequently as many would wish, the alternatives are surely worse.

If you would like to learn more about how to stay in touch while behind bars, or how to maximize the time you will be able to speak to those you love, we would be happy to offer a free consultation to discuss your individual situation and see how we can help!


Sam Mangel


Member: American Bar Association