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Prison system sends seized phones to charity

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 23, 2013 at 1:16 p.m.

LITTLE ROCK — Inmates aren't allowed to have cellphones in Arkansas' prisons, but that doesn't stop them from trying.

The state Department of Correction has seized more than 1,000 cellphones since 2008. As those phones piled up, prison officials searched for a way to put the confiscated devices to good use.

The found Cell Phones for Soldiers, a New England nonprofit group that recycles used cellphones and turns the profits into prepaid calling cards for troops.

Arkansas' prison system made its first donation to the Norwell, Mass.-based organization this month with about 600 phones, and the agency plans to donate hundreds more, Department of Correction spokesman Shea Wilson said.

Arkansas is not the first prison to work with Cell Phones for Soldiers. In 2012, the organization said it received more than 5,600 cellphones from 32 prisons and police and sheriff departments in 17 states, including California and New York.

Since 2004, Cell Phones for Soldiers has provided troops with more than 200 million minutes of free talk time and distributed more than 3.3 million international calling cards.

Phones vary in value, but Cell Phones for Soldiers estimates that one phone translates to about 30 minutes of talk time.

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