WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21: Westgate prison officers have deployed a hi-tech scanner to block the use of illicit cellphones by inmates.

Commissioner of Prisons Lt Col. Eddie Lamb told us about efforts to block the use of cellphones in the jail after our story about an inmate who posted a photo of himself in his cell using a mobile phone.

Desmond Richardson, 22, later appeared in court after threatening to kill officers who were searching his cell for a phone.

He was also the subject of internal disciplinary measures for having an illegal phone behind bars.

Our story prompted MP Ashfield DeVent to call for tougher measures to clamp down on cellphone possession behind bars — and said the phones could be used to co-ordinate crime on the outside or to attempt to scare off witnesses.

Lt Col. Lamb said: “We do indeed have cellphone jamming equipment in place at Westgate — Mr Richardson may simply have succeeded in finding a blind spot that was not covered at that moment by our jammers.”

Lt Col Lamb responded after MP Ashfield DeVent said more needed to be done to keep phones out of the hands of prisoners.

Mr DeVent added: “I think this raises a lot of questions as to how phones get in there. It’s very disturbing.

“It certainly raises the perception that officers are taking these things in for prisoners.

“It also raises issues of witness intimidation or gang activities — it seems quite a few people in prison have them. It appears rampant throughout the system.”

But Lt Col Lamb said: “As for the assertion that illicit cellphone use appears to be rampant throughout the system, this is an unfair exaggeration of the situation.

“I can further state that we are constantly striving to interdict all contraband entering our facilities.

“It is an ongoing battle, but one which we diligently fight on a daily basis.”

Lt Col. Lamb added: “Until such time as we catch an officer running contraband into Westgate, the assertion that they are doing so is mere conjecture.

“If anyone has detailed and concrete information in this regard, I would be more than willing to accept it and act upon it.”

Richardson appeared in court after he posted a self-portrait on his Facebook page of his reflection in his jail cell mirror.

He can be clearly seen holding the phone to take the picture.

It emerged later that a recent court appearance for Richardson — who was given six months extra jail time for threatening to kill four prison officers — was as a result of a search of his cell for a phone.

Prohibited

Prison Commissioner Eddie Lamb confirmed: “Cellphones are prohibited items in our facilities and inmates are not allowed to have them.

“The incident involving Richardson wherein he threatened officers actually emanated from a search of his cell, which was conducted as a result of our intelligence that he had a cellphone in his possession.

“In this case, Richardson was adjudicated by us for possession of the cellphone, as are all inmates when found with one; and he was charged in court for threatening our officers.”

Richardson, 22, who was due to be released last weekend, will now spend Christmas behind bars.

Richardson admitted threatening four officers at Westgate in Magistrates’ Court earlier this month.

The court heard that officers — acting on a tip-off — raided Richardson’s cell on November 20 to look for the phone.

The prison officers saw Richardson throw something out of his cell window and started a search of the cell.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Keillor said that Richardson initially complied with the search — but became argumentative when told to remove his boxer shorts.

She added: “He threatened the officers and said ‘I’m going to kill you all when I get out of here in four weeks.

“I’m going to take your heads off’.“

The court heard that Richardson had been serving a two-year sentence imposed in June 2010, but no further details were given.