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Prison populations: a flash mob to be reckoned with


In Vengeful flash mobs, I had spoken of flash mobs and smart mobs, how originally innocuous flash mobs can turn deadly and how smart mobs could well challenge, even overpower, the C3 (command, control, and communication) capacities of opposing police and peacekeepers, or create an effective, flat P2P comm network for directing all manner of actions.

Just as I had mentioned my favorite flash mob example, a 2002 Nigerian Muslim rampage over impiety to the prophet Muhammad over an imported Miss World beauty pageant during Ramadan, the Texas Department of Corrections offered another: prison inmates using smuggled cellphones. Texas prison electronic surveillance found, for example, that members of a violent group, the Texas Syndicate, were using cellphones from within the prison to manage their criminal affairs on the outside. Other US inmate cellphone pastimes are purchasing drugs, planning escapes, and coercing witnesses. Cellphones are provided by corrupt guards and service workers due to their current size, weight, and metal content.

I was reminded that a major orchestrated flash mob riot of prison inmates using cellphones occurred in 2001 across 29 prisons in Brazil "in which 15 people were killed and 8,000 guards and relatives visiting the prisons were held hostage":

"The uprising was planned by a drug-trafficking ring inside Carandiru called First Capital Commando, and timed to take advantage of visiting hours. Sunday conjugal visits were established after the 1992 riots as a distraction for convicts, who each receive at least 30 minutes of private time in their cramped cells.

Inmates used cellphones smuggled in with the help of corrupt guards to co-ordinate the state-wide revolt. The First Capital Commando leaders were angry 10 gang members had been transferred on Friday from Carandiru to prisons in other states.

"This riot proves they're a very powerful organization," a local television reporter said. "They were flexing their muscles. The Governor of the state has now said he will negotiate directly with the gang members.""

It is said that technology has no loyalty and is open to any hand. As technology becomes smaller, wearable, and concealable, more capacity will fall to a wider number of groups. Cellphones and their chargers are being smuggled into prisons now. As they miniaturize, they will be harder to detect and smuggling can better bypass the guard conduit. The prison smart mob is closer that we think: KeyComputing is selling a highlighter-sized miniature personal server, Xkey, for the pockets of mobile workers. Think of what prisoners could smuggle in and out, or organize with such a device. Xkey has a USB port so it could be connected to a phone.

First Capital Commando sound much like the Texas Syndicate. Interestingly, the Texas Syndicate rivals are the Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familia, Mexican Mafia, Mexikanemi, and the Mandingo Warriors. Think of that collective lot as a group of smart mobs. Prison guards will be outclassed.

Inmates Use Smuggled Cellphones to Maintain a Foot on the Outside
New York Times
June 21, 2004

Hostages held in Brazilian prison refuse to leave
Fears for captors: Troops retake control of 29 prisons after synchronized riots
Marina Jiménez, National Post, with files from news services
February 20, 2001

Gordon Housworth

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