Questioning from a judge has revealed that inmates at a jail in American Samoa get to use the mobile phones of guards.
RNZI correspondent Monica Miller said the information came to light during a status hearing for US citizen Dean Jay Fletcher, who was being held for allegedly entering and leaving the territory illegally.
Mr Fletcher, who is wanted in Tonga over the death of his wife, escaped from prison in Vava'u and sailed to Pago Pago last week.
District Court Judge Fiti Sunia said he had the perception that Mr Fletcher communicated regularly from inside prison to an associate in Tonga and wanted to know how he had been able to do it.
Under questioning from the judge, the prison officer accompanying Mr Fletcher said that each defendant was allowed one call per week.
The judge asked whose phone was used, and whether the call was from a landline or cellular phone.
The officer responded that the cellphone of whichever guard was on duty in the office was the one that inmates used.
If the call was to a number off the island, the inmates paid for it using their own $20 phone cards, the prison officer said.
"So the inmates are loading their minutes into your cellphones?" Judge Sunia asked.
The court did not want to undermine the prison's policies, he said.
"If it is your policy then so be it, but the phone situation is just, 'Wow'."