Regardless of the many incidents reported by various state prison administrators, the use of cell phones inside prisons continues because of a political snafu that has yet to be resolved. The Federal Communication Commission, denied requests from the Washington DC prison system to run a demonstration citing it is a direct violation of their rules which state in part, “willful or malicious interference” with the cell phone signal. The Commission’s regulations also prohibit the manufacture or importation or sale of devices “deliberately designed to jam or disrupt wireless communications.”The first petition to offer a counterattack on the use of cell phones inside prisons by prisoners stated “”contraband cell phones are a major security risk within correctional settings,” and that “prison and jail systems across the country are confiscating these devices at an alarming rate.” Plus, cell phones are used by inmates “to engage in highly pernicious behavior such as the intimidation of witnesses, coordination of escapes, and the conducting of criminal enterprises.” These arguments won the FCC over, at least then. The story printed goes on to state the “Commission gave the DC prison administration temporary authority to try out directional jamming equipment produced by the CellAntenna Corporation on January 8 2010, but the District of Columbia canceled the test run at the very last minute. A day before the trial run, CTIA, The Wireless Association, petitioned the United States Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit, asking for a stay of the FCC’s go ahead. CTIA called the test “flatly illegal” and the FCC approval made “with no exigent public safety need.”
That was over two years ago when this petition was submitted to address illegal cell phone use inside prisons. Since that time, there has been no headway into the introduction of the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009, set up to permit state governors or the director of the federal prisons to jam mobile phones inside their prisons. The emphasis appears to be the “practice and established procedures for shutting it [cell phone service] down if a wireless company complains and can prove the jamming has reached beyond the gates of a prison or jail.” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced the legislation on January 15. 24 Republicans and two Democrats have cosponsored the bill, which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary Committees. The opposition to this bill are federal officials who” don’t want to go so far in trying to jam those communications that they create problems for nearby public safety workers or average citizens, according to a new government report. ” A possible solution: more limited technologies that would let prison officials block calls only from unapproved devices, the report said.Today, every state prison administrator must admit they have failed miserably in stopping the introduction of unauthorized cellphones and are desperately seeking electronic assistance to jam the signals and block such activities behind bars. The training of canines to detect the lithium batteries used on these cell phones are expensive to train and cost agencies thousands of dollars. The most common drawback of these canines is their unavailability for all the prisons or jails within their jurisdiction or supervision.
Although officials say inmates use smuggled cell phones for all manner of criminal activity, including running drug rings from behind bars, intimidating witnesses and planning escapes, it has not been appropriately addressed to date. The increase of cell phones in “California prisons alone has been exponential in recent years, authorities say. Correctional staff found 1,400 in 2007, when the department began to keep records of confiscations. The number jumped to 6,995 in 2009 and stands at 8,675 so far this year.” One can only imagine that if you multiply this increase proportionally for every prison or jail system nationwide, what kind of numbers one would find inside these prisons and jails.
Today, this year in 2011, the Congress must address that portion of the FCC regulations that state “specifically 47 U.S.C. 333: No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this chapter or operated by the United States Government.” It is time to protect the citizens of those states that want to jam the illegal use of cellphones by prisoners inside prisons and jails who have rampant control of their so called restricted environment by making a call to anyone twenty four seven. Congress needs to stop stalling passing legislation that would allow jamming of cell phone signals within the confines of a federal or state prison or jail.