Kern Valley State Prison helps donate 1M cell phone minutes to troops

Minutes are gained by recycling smuggled phones

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - 'Cell Phones for Soldiers' was started by a pair of 12 and 13-year-old siblings from Massachusetts who saw the need for soldiers to be able to call home without worrying about how much it cost.

The program has since spread all over the country with citizens dropping off used cell phones at local donation sites.

One major donor is Kern Valley State Prison.

Kern Valley State Prison officials said nearly 600 cell phones are smuggled into the prison annually.

"They're smuggled in through visiting, through monthly packages, through commissary," said an official.

Over the last few months, officials have gathered many cell phones, but instead of throwing them out, the phones and parts are being donated to help the military.

"The program is called 'Cell Phones for Soldiers'," said Lt. Jeff Smith, the KVSP Spokesman. "It's a program we instituted at Kern Valley State Prison a year and a half to two years ago."

The prison takes confiscated cell phones from inmates and turns them into a 'Cell Phones for Soldiers' donation site in Bakersfield. The phones, accessories and any parts are then recycled and the proceeds go toward prepaid calling cards which are sent to U.S. military troops overseas to use to call home.

"The irony is we are taking these phones away from individuals that lost their freedom to speak to their loved ones and anyone on the outside and giving that to our soldiers overseas that would love nothing more than to talk to their loved ones for a precious second or moment," said Officer Juan Salcedo, a security squad officer at the prison.

Since June 2011, the prison has donated nearly 900 confiscated cell phones to 'Cell Phones for Soldiers'. The Bakersfield donation site which asked not to be publicized told 23ABC its partnership with KVSP has helped them send one million minutes worth of calling cards to our overseas troops.

"In the negative environment we work in, it's gratifying to have some positives come out of something like this. It's not everyday we can actually say we are doing some good," said an official.

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