Senator urges jamming cell phones in prison

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - A Texas senator is now leading the charge to let states jam cell-phone signals in prisons. This comes after alarming cases of organized crime, death threats, and even escape attempts being made by prisoners with phones smuggled in from the outside.

"In 2008 alone corrections systems reported startling numbers of confiscated phones," said U.S. Senator Kay Bailey-Hutchison of Texas.

Hutchison is heading up the lobby to make cell phones in jails useless, citing discussions of organized crime, drugs, and even death threats.

"Just a few phones inside a prison can lead to a coordinated attack on guards and facilitate escape attempts," she said. "One of our witnesses today, my friend, Senator John Whitmire, was the target of a death row inmate using a cell phone."

Getting a cell phone past security is rare but it can be done; in a trash pick-up in a delivery or, if you know the right people, by just leaving it in a pre-arranged location outside the facility. Some law enforcement say jamming the signals is a smart idea.

"Very possibly it could help in the jail setting and would be a deterrent for people trying to smuggle in contraband such as cell phones," said Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano.

But, others worry that critical communication with officers and guards will be effected.

"I'd like to know how it will effect their operation," said Morris County Sheriff Jack Martin. "We do a lot of business talking back to different agencies, informants [and] citizens. We do a lot of business on our cell phones."

The bill would essentially revise a 1934 federal law banning anyone from jamming phone signals. Authorities we talked to say, right now, they need more information about how the jamming device programs would work.

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