Prisoners Dial C For Crime

Every year Federal inmates make more than 55 million phone calls to the outside. Authorities know that prisoners aren't exclusively calling their mothers, but a new Justice Department report finds that some, like drug kingpin Anthony Jones, actually phone in murder, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports.

Jones spoke in code over the phone, but investigators cracked it. Jones instructed his subordinates on the outside: "I want him to go, you know what I'm saying....that John's gotta get whacked tonight."

Two weeks later one of Jones' lieutenants in his old Baltimore neighborhood was murdered. His name was John.

Anthony Jones

The Jones case is one of several cited in a new Justice Department report that found many federal inmates keep right on orchestrating crimes even while behind bars. Some inmates spent virtually all day on the phone.

A lawyer for Jones defended the circumstances of the calls, noting "when that phone call was placed he was in a low security institution without any serious control over his movements or communications."

Another prisoner cited in the report was William Lilly. He became known as "King of Telephones" for allegedly rebuilding his real estate empire from behind bars. He's credited with making nearly 10,000 calls in one 10-month period.

Boston journalist Joe Clements wondered about Lilly's rehabilitation: "It's not so much what was said in these phone calls, but the fact that somebody made so many phone calls in that period of time. You'd think they'd have to rake leaves once in a while."

Prison officials defend themselves by explaining that most inmates work eight hours a day and are forbidden to use the phone during work hours. But they admit that many skirt the rules and cheat. Inmates pay for all their calls, and each call is recorded and monitored on a random basis.

Federal authorities initially thought allowing phone privileges was a good idea. It helped maintain family ties, they said. Occasionally lawmen even picked up clues from listening in on the calls. That, of course, was before prison populations exploded. Now there are 150,000 federal inmates on the phone every day and there's simply not enough technology to keep track of them all.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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