Cell Phone Problem in Prison

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Information on the Cellular Telephone Problem in Prison

Smuggling cell phones into prisons is becoming a major problem all over the US, allowing inmates to makes calls to carry out extortion schemes, tax evasion, credit card fraud, drug deals, prison breaks and riots. Prison guards and outsiders are often involved and the phones being smuggled are usually prepaid and untraceable.

Sniffer dogs have been trained to locate cell phones in California and Maryland prisons, but this method hasn’t been 100% successful.

A petition was started in South Carolina to block signals from illegal cell phones in prisons. 24 other state officials signed the petition to the FCC, which was filed only two days before a legislative hearing on the 1934 federal ban of telecommunications jamming in prisons.

On October 5th, 2009, the senate passed a bill called “S. 251: Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009” amending the 1934 act in order to allow interference with cell phone signals within prison facilities. The bill, later referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, allowed states to petition the FCC for the power to block the use of cell phones.

Summary of Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009

The Safe Prisons Communications Act amends the Communications Act of 1934, allowing the Chief Executive Officer of a State or the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to petition the FCC to allow preventative or blocking devices of wireless communications to be installed within a certain prison’s boundaries under his or her jurisdiction. The device may only interfere with wireless communications on a directional basis so that any communication outside the correctional facility is not disrupted. The FCC must also arrive at final criteria for the certification of manufacturing, selling, importing and shipping of these devices.


1. States Seek to Jam Prison Cell phone 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

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Cell Phone Problem in Prison

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