The smuggled cellphones are major growing problem across the country, allowing inmates to make unmonitored calls. The inmates have used cell phones to carry out extortion schemes, tax evasion plots, drug deals, credit card fraud, prison riots and escapes. The cell phones are smuggled into prisons with the assistance of guards or visitors, or are thrown over prison fences. The cell phone used are prepaid and untraceable type.
California and Maryland have trained canine units to sniff out cell phones in prisons but it is not a fool proof method.
To combat the cell phone menace, South Carolina petitioned the Federal Communications Commission on to protect the public safety by blocking signals from contraband cell phones emanating from prisons. The petition was also signed by two dozen other state corrections agencies. The petition was filed two days before the Senate commerce committee is scheduled to hold hearings on legislation that would waive a 1934 federal ban on telecommunications jamming for prisons and other exceptional cases.
Seeing the major problems a bill called "S. 251: Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009" to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to permit targeted interference with mobile radio services within prison facilities was passed in senate on Oct 5, 2009 and subsequently referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. This bill will allow states to petition the Federal Communications Commission for the authority to "jam" - or block the use of cell phones from prison.
Summary of Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009
Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to authorize the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the chief executive officer of a state to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to permit the installation of devices to prevent, jam, or interfere with wireless communications within the geographic boundaries of a specific prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility under his or her jurisdiction. Requires that the device be operated on a directional basis, using all other interference-limiting capabilities available to the device, or otherwise so that the device does not interfere with wireless communications that originate and terminate outside the area of the prison, penitentiary, or correctional facility. Requires the FCC to adopt a final rule establishing criteria for certification for the manufacture, sale, importation, and interstate shipment of such devices.
1. States Seek to Jam Prison Cellphone Signals, By Solomon Moore, Published: July 13, 2009 http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/14/us/14fcc.html?_r=2&ref=technology
2. S. 251: Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009, http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-251