Let state prisons jam cellphones

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Posted by jammer from the General category at 26 Jan 2024 03:13:04 am.
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In a renewed effort, state prosecutors from various states are urging Congress to pass legislation that would grant state prisons the ability to disrupt cellphone signals used by inmates. These prosecutors assert that these devices enable prisoners to coordinate acts of violence and perpetrate criminal offenses.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, along with a group of 22 Republican prosecutors, composed a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The prosecutors urged Congress to enact legislation that would authorize states to implement a cell phone jamming system. This system is deemed crucial for the protection of inmates, guards, and the wider public.

Wilson's office has expressed their intention to establish contact with Democratic state prosecutors, emphasizing that the matter is not influenced by political affiliation.

A letter, presented to The Associated Press, has been provided by the attorneys. This letter highlights a few criminal incidents that were reportedly coordinated by prisoners using contraband cellphones. Among these incidents are a drug conspiracy in Tennessee and a double homicide hit that was allegedly ordered by an inmate from Indiana.

Additionally, reference was made to a siege in 2018 that was linked to gang activity and occurred at a prison in South Carolina. This prolonged incident lasted for more than seven hours and claimed the lives of seven inmates. A chilling account provided by one prisoner depicted the disturbing sight of bodies stacked on top of each other, resembling a sinister woodpile. Corrections officials attributed the orchestrated violence, which is considered the worst prison riot in the United States in the past 25 years, partially to the use of illegal cellphones.

In their statement, the prosecutors highlighted that blocking inmates' access to contraband cell phones would play a pivotal role in preventing the occurrence of serious drug trafficking, violent riots, and other criminal acts.

To render the phones worthless, which are often smuggled into state prisons through various means such as being hidden inside hollowed-out footballs, facilitated by corrupt employees, and sometimes even dropped using drones, prosecutors are advocating for a change in a federal communications law that has been in place for almost a century. This change would allow state prisons to utilize jamming signal technology to nullify illegal cell signals.

The relentless pursuit to curb the use of illicit cellphones in state prisons has been underway for years. South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling has played a pivotal role in leading a collective effort among corrections directors across the nation, advocating for the implementation of more advanced technology to combat the proliferation of contraband phones.

A momentous victory was achieved in 2021 when the Federal Communications Commission adopted a ruling allowing state prison systems to apply for permits to detect and deactivate illegal cell signals, individually and in partnership with cellphone providers. South Carolina took the initiative to apply for this technology, but Stirling stated to AP on Tuesday that no action has been taken on the state's application.

It was noted by Stirling that federal prisons have the ability to jam cell signals within their facilities, but they have chosen not to utilize this capability at the moment.

CTIA, a wireless industry group, is firmly against the use of jamming technology, citing concerns over its interference with legal phone calls. However, as outlined in a 2020 FCC document, CTIA has informed the commission that it has been working in collaboration with its member companies to effectively terminate service to illegal devices as mandated by court orders they have obtained.
Calling combating contraband phones “a serious issue,” CTIA officials said in a statement to the AP that the “wireless industry remains committed to working with corrections officials and policymakers at all levels of government to implement effective solutions that combat contraband phones while protecting lawful communications.”

An email seeking comment on the renewed push for jamming has been sent, but the FCC officials have not yet responded.

In the past, Congress has explored the possibility of enacting jamming legislation, but no bills have been signed into law or even granted a hearing. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, reintroduced a similar measure during the previous Congress in August.

“We’re not going to stop advocating,” Wilson told AP on Tuesday. “I can only hope that at some point, Congress is going to take note.”
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