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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Prison inmates continue to get caught with cell phones. Not only are they getting their hands on phones, they're using them to post to social media sites.
Gregory Bigham, of Montgomery, shares pictures and status updates with friends on Facebook, posing in his prison jumpsuit and showing off his tattoos. In a post from Wednesday, he captioned a photo: "Another day in the joint IM still standing one day at a time."
The snapshot and several others were listed as mobile uploads. He has posted on and off since 2011.
Montgomery County court documents show Bigham is doing time for robbery and burglary at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton. It's the same Barbour County prison where other inmates were recently busted for using cell phones to operate a theft ring from behind bars, scamming Georgia businesses out of thousands of dollars of equipment by claiming it was ordered by Albany Water, Gas and Light.
"The inmates on the inside seem to be the brains of it. Masterminding the situation. And then getting people on the outside to go do the pickups and dropping it off to the people who are fencing it for them," said Capt. Craig Dodd with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.
Alabama prison officials say the crackdown on cell phones and social media is ongoing.
"For us, we diligently try to keep them out of our prisons but despite our best efforts, they continue to make their way in. Cell phones are not only against DOC rules, they're against the law. Social networking is also against the rules for DOC inmates. They're all well aware. In fact, there are signs posted everywhere stating that the phones are against the law," said Brian Corbett, public information manager with the Alabama Department of Corrections.
This isn't the first time WSFA has reported on Alabama inmates boldly updating their Facebook pages using cell phones inside penitentiaries and it continues to happen.
In late 2013, an inmate convicted of murder and incarcerated at the Elmore Correctional Center was caught posting dozens of pictures, showing Alabama corrections clothing, prison bunks and other inmates.
Earlier that year, another DOC inmate's account surfaced with pictures of him posing in his prison garb inside the facility.
The American Correctional Association says it's a national problem and that "possessing cell phones gives inmates access to a private line of communication from which they can harass, threaten and intimidate victims and witnesses, engage in unlawful activities, and continue criminal enterprises."
When asked if the Alabama Department of Corrections is doing anything differently to keep inmates from getting their hands on cell phones, their spokesman responded: "That's really a redundant question. People continue to come to prison every day too... We battle cell phones as contraband every day just like we battle every other form of contraband. There are various and numerous ways that they receive them. They're contraband just like pot or drugs or any other item may be contraband."
We asked the person who sent in the tip about the inmate at Ventress posting to Facebook what their concerns are about prisoners having access to cell phones and social media.
The tipster responded: "If they are in for a crime and doing time they should be serving time. Not having the luxuries that people on the outside have. Plus access to cell phones and social media could promote drugs and gang related activities. Calls to home in prison are earned and if the inmates have a cell phone what's the point in having good behavior? Plus it runs the risk for people to be harassed. I believe cell phones are almost as bad as having a weapon in prison because it's all in how you use it."
The Department of Corrections spokesman says inmates caught with cell phones and posting to social media are subject to disciplinary action, including the loss of privileges, loss of communication and possible segregation.
We're told the prison system will work to track the phones down and contact Facebook to remove the pages since they are considered a security violation.
In Alabama, more than 5,000 cell phones were seized in 2012.