super interesting piece here. here's a bit of it which illustrates just a handful of the many uses of a cellphone in prison, most of which are actually very banal or outright benevolent:
Most of what I knew about illicit electronics came from press releases and news stories that offered example after example of all the bad things people could do with contraband phones, things like trafficking drugs, making threats and running scams. While it’s true those things can happen, over the past three years I’ve also seen a lot of people use their phones for good. Some use them to self-publish books or take online college classes. Others become prison reform advocates, teach computer skills, trade bitcoin or write legal briefs. I’ve seen a whole plethora of savvy and creative uses that fly in the face of stereotypes about people behind bars. “Our cell phones have saved lives,” a man in prison in South Carolina told me.