Cell phones smuggling 'all-too-common' occurrence in Sri Lankan prisons

Washington, Feb. 10 (ANI): Sri Lanka's prison officials have discovered rampant cell phone smuggling into the high security Welikade Prison, in the northern sector of the capital, Colombo.

The revelation comes after 58-year-old G. Siripala, a Sri Lankan prisoner serving a 10-year sentence for theft, was escorted by armed prison officials to Colombo's National Hospital with severe back pain, where doctors rushed him for an X-ray.

A source familiar with the matter told CNN that doctors thought he might have orthopaedic complications, but the X-ray showed a cell phone and two hands-free kits.

The source said that medical staff prepared to carry out a surgical procedure on the prisoner, adding that the man, however, said 'Sir, sir, please give me a moment.' He coughed, wriggled, shrugged his muscles and the items fell on the ground'.

The prisoner explained his situation to the doctors, recounting how he had been chatting on the cell phone with a relative when prison officials carried out a surprise check on his ward, the source said.

The prisoner said that he had no place to hide it. So he thrust it in his rectum together with the two hands-free kits.

At nighttime, to avoid detection, the prisoners cover themselves with a bed sheet, hide the phone near the body and use the hands free kit, the source added.

According to the report, Siripala's undoing came when the person he had been speaking to rang back. The ringing tone came from his back and prison officials grabbed him, the source said.

The prisoner alleged that he was beaten by prison guards, causing the back pain that resulted in his trip to hospital and subsequent X-ray.

Prison officials contacted by CNN declined to comment on the matter because there was no such complaint of abuses.

Siripala was kept under observation for a day at the National Hospital and discharged on Friday, the source familiar with the matter said.

Smuggling of cell phones into prison is an all-too-common occurrence, forcing prison officers to use hand-held detectors, Commissioner General of Prisons P.W. Kodippili said.

He said that 'most prisoners, particularly when they are taken to courts for cases, return with mobile phones given by outside parties. We have minimized the problem and are on the alert and catch them when they come in'.

Kodippili said that the 'worst offenders' are female prisoners.

He added that jammers have been installed in prisons. However, one mobile phone operator had a tower near Welikade Prison and this was causing a technical glitch, the report added. (ANI)

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