First Prison Contraband Offender Charged for Cellphone, Tobacco

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An inmate at a north Idaho incarceration facility faces felony charges for possession of contraband, a serious crime, according to Idaho Department of Correction officials.

Joshua Combs was found in possession of a cellphone and chewing tobacco, according to a release sent out by IDOC. Combs is the first prisoner to be charged with a new Idaho law that steps up penalties for contraband.

Staff at the North Idaho Correctional Institution in Cottonwood found four cans of chewing tobacco in a tool shed following a tip from an IDOC probation and parole officer, while a cellphone and charger were found in a housing unit.

Combs now faces an additional five years added to his sentence. He was originally sentenced for two to five years for possession of a controlled substance.

When the Idaho Legislature heard Senate Bill 1215 back in February, IDOC Deputy Warden Tim Higgins told lawmakers about the potential damage inmates can cause by using a cellphone from inside incarceration facilities, citing a story of gang activity coordinated via a device.

The measure was ultimately signed into law, and increased penalties for contraband like cellphones and more than three ounces of tobacco.

Originally punishment was no more than six months in jail, and a fine of less than $1,000. The new law increases the punishment to a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Contraband in Idaho prisons can go for much higher rates on the black market. IDOC gave an example of chewing tobacco, sold for $1 in a store, generating up to $80 depending on location and quantity.

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