cellphones in prison

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Test Jams Prison Cellphones

Feds working with SC officials

April 21, 2019 - 11:00 am

South Carolina prison officials are waiting for a report from the feds about a recent test to try to block cellphone service in our prison system. 

pile of old cellphones
Image: antos777/getty images
The test happened at Broad River Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Columbia over five days last week.  It's the first time the Department of Justice collaborated with officials at a state prison so do this.

The idea is to try to jam cell signals so that smuggled phones inside prisons would be useless.  Prison officials have long said that contraband mobile phones are a top security threat inside our detention facilities. Back in 2010, a South Carolina corrections officer was nearly killed in a hit orchestrated by an inmate using an illegal phone.  Also in 2010, an inmate escaped from a maximum-security prison in South Carolina, thanks in part to a smuggled cellphone.  In 2018, seven inmates at a Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison in Bishopville, SC, were killed in what officials have said was a gang fight over territory and contraband, including cellphones.

Micro-jamming technology has been shown to shut down signals inside specific prison cells, while other phones, just a few feet away, can work perfectly.

Right now, states and local agencies do not have the authority to jam the public airwaves but there is some pending federal legislation that could reverse that when it comes to prisons.

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