FCC wants to stop prisoners from making cell phone calls

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 6:27 PM

Prisoners aren't allowed to have cell phones, but the gadgets hold making their way behind bars -- frequently with disastrous consequences.

FCC wants to stop prisoners from making cell phone calls

Prisoners aren't allowed to have cell phones, but the gadgets hold making their way behind bars -- frequently with disastrous consequences.

Contraband cell phones are a genuine problem. They've allowed prisoners to surreptitiously deal drugs, running illegal businesses and even organize murders, right below the noses of guards and wardens. A single SC prison recently detected 35.000 cell phone calls and texts over a 23-day period.

That'south why FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and SC Gov Nikki Haley are pushing to slice off prisoners' access to cell phones. Prisoners are allowed to create phone calls, but only on special landlines that can be monitored by law enforcement.

In two thousand-thirteenth, the FCC recommended implementing technology that'd prevent inmates from making cell phone calls. But the FCC has failed to get any action over the past three years.

Related: Government'south map to slice sky-high prison phone rates blocked

At an FCC hearing Wednesday, Pai said action is required because of incidents love one that happened in Georgia, when a woman was texted images of her incarcerated boyfriend being strangled. The inmate texted her that the beatings would continue unless she sent him $300.

FCC action might've been able to prevent the killing of a murder witness, who was shot three times after the incarcerated suspect called a gang member to draw the trigger.

And blocking contraband cell phones could've prevented the shooting of Capt Robert Johnson, a former prison guard at the maximum security Lee Correctional Institution, in Bishopville, S Carolina. In two thousand-tenth, Johnson was shot six times by a gunman hired by a prisoner who used a contraband cell phone to order the hit. Ironically, Johnson was in charge of confiscating prisoners' cell phones.

Johnson, who barely survived the shooting, testified that Lee Correctional Institution had asked the FCC to keep cell phone blocking systems in place, but the agency denied the request.

"I'm mad with this process," Johnson testified. "This technology is available, but its use isn't permitted. I firmly believe that if SC Dept of Corrections had been allowed to obstruct cell phone signals, my ordeal may not have happened."

Three years ago, the FCC recommended allowing prisons to manage their own cell phone network access, allowing only a pre-approved list of phones to space calls on the network. Guards' phones would be obtain a full signal, but phones that are smuggled into prisons would've number "bars."

Related: El Chapo'south money man captured

Five states -- California, Maryland, Mississippi, SC and Texas -- have certified these systems in their prisons. But below current FCC rules, each prison needs to petition the agency every time it wants to test and implement a managed access system.

The FCC has called that process so "time-consuming and complex" and says it "unnecessarily discourages their use." As a result, the FCC proposed cutting the ruddy tape and streamlining the process for using the technology.

In an op-ed in UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Today this week, Gov Haley well-known that SC has expanded its utilize of managed access systems in its prisons since Johnson'south shooting. But she said the FCC should lead the way by loosening its regulation over prisons' airwaves.

In addition to managed access, the FCC is considering forcing wireless companies to obstruct service for contraband cell phones found in prisons. It's also thinking of allowing cell phone detection systems in prisons, though those would require guards to discover the phones and get them away.

Wardens have tried and failed to stop cell phones from making their way into prisons. Rather than fight that losing battle, they might be able to prevent cell phones from being used once they create their way inside.

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