UK Asks Amazon And eBay To Stop Selling 'Prison Phones'

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UK wants to make its prisons more secure for both inmates and prison staff, and as part of a wider effort it’s making an appeal to Amazon, Gumtree, and eBay, to block sales of “prison phones.” Such handsets are as small as a lighter and are made entirely of plastic, without any metal components, so that they can get past Body Orifice Security Scanners (BOSS). Prison security officers use these scanners to detect various metallic objects that inmates might be smuggling, such as cell phones, knives, parts to make a firearm, and more. David Lidington, UK Justice Secretary, is asking retailers for help to keep prisons safe.

Such “prison phones” are easy to get into prison because they’re very small and they don’t have metallic parts that would trigger the BOSS systems. In fact, they’re often advertised with the tagline “Beat the BOSS,” clearly indicating what they’re most suitable for. Thy cost roughly £25 and are readily available online at Amazon, Gumtree, and eBay, but Lidington hopes to convince retailers to stop selling such phones. Lidington highlights a number of steps that have already been taken to ensure that prisons get safer and notes that while these steps will make a great difference in how staff will be able to handle violent incidents, it’s also paramount to consider the cause of violent incidents. Having drugs and other types of contraband readily available in prison accounts for much of the violence and disorder and is among the main reasons that prisons need more safety measures.

Lidington says that detection measures are getting upgrades, but it’s also important to block the sale of products that are specifically designed to evade prison detection measures. These all-plastic miniature phones designed to “Beat the BOSS” may cost just £25 online, but they could be worth up to £500 in prison. Desperate prisoners could assume such a hefty debt for a cell phone, which in turn further feeds gangs that operate in and out of prison, smuggling phones and other products. According to Lidington, these tiny phones keep making their way into prisons, with their size and shape offering valuable clues as to how they manage to avoid detection. Having such phones off the market will be tough, even if Amazon, eBay, and Gumtree agree to stop selling them.