Bill Advancing On Cell Phones In Prison

Making people that pass phones to inmates felons

January 30, 2018 - 3:41 pm

A bill is working its way through the State House that would increase the penalties for corrections inmates who possess a cell phone or people who provide cell phones to inmates.

A subcommittee of the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee voted Tuesday to advance the bill, sponsored by Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, to the full committee for a vote.

“They can get online,” Shealy explained why she crafted the bill. “They can call in hits from the outside just by having a cell phone. We need to stop that. They’re incarcerated for a reason . . . they don’t need to have contact with the outside. That’s just asking for trouble and it needs to be stopped. And so I think by having this legislation, it will deter that activity and the stronger the penalty, the more they’re going to stop.”

Director of the Department of Corrections Bryan Stirling told the committee by increasing the charge to a felony, the state is sending a message to inmates who use cell phones in prison and the people who provide them.

“Right now there’s confusion: is it magistrate’s court charge, 30 days, or is a one-year felony?” he said. “It would strengthen (the law) making it a felony to bring cell phones into prisons.”

“In the courts, we have had and a problem when we go and try to have someone convicted or charged with possession of a cell phone or smuggling a cell phone in, there’s confusion whether it should go to general sessions court or whether it goes to magistrate’s court,” Stirling said. “And today, what Senator Shealy did was to clean that up and send a clear message that we’re taking it serious and it’s going to be a felony.”

“If you take contraband cell phones into prison, it’s going to be a felony. It’s going to be one charge. It’s really a stricter penalty,” Shealy said. “It’s going to send a strong message: ‘You don’t want to do this. If you take it there you’re going to be penalized.'”

“With what this committee did today, they’re sending a clear message to folks that are trying to smuggle cell phones into our correctional institutions that it is a felony and we take it very serious and you’re going to go to jail if you do that — or prison, actually,” Stirling said. “30-day misdemeanor vs. a year to 10 years? That’s a large deterrent.”

Stirling has been extremely vocal in his campaign to have cell phone signals jammed at state prisons. He returns to Washington, D.C. next week to discuss the issue with federal regulators.

Click here to read the bill.


JANUARY 30, 2018 BY RENEE SEXTON (South Carolina Radio Network)

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