The head of South Carolina’s prison system, Jon Ozmint, wants to be able to jam cell phone signals so inmates who get their hands on such phones can’t use them. Seems simple enough, but it isn’t. The Associated Press reports that the federal Communications Act prevents states from interfering with federal airwaves. The FCC can give federal agencies the OK to do so, but not state and local authorities.”It’s just hypocrisy beyond the pale of reason that the big, bad federal government goes, ‘Oh, well, we can use this technology, but your poor little states can’t use the same technology to protect your citizens,” Ozmint told AP.
He blames use of contraband cell phones for most of the state’s prison escapes. In a high-profile case in Maryland, a Baltimore man who identified a shooting suspect was gunned down after the man he fingered used a cell phone from prison to order the hit.
Here in Oklahoma, prison spokesman Jerry Massie says cell phones are found frequently behind bars. The Department of Corrections has unsuccessfully sought legislation in recent years to make it a felony to smuggle or possess cell phones in prison. The agency is trying to contract for training dogs to detect the phones, Massie says.
The AP interviewed critics of Ozmint’s proposal who said you can’t contain jamming technology to just a few buildings, or that jamming might affect internal radio communications. Others say jammers could easily be angled in a way that allows someone standing outside to make a call, if needed.
Ozmint’s frustration is obvious. “As long as you have human beings in prison as inmates and employees, and as long as there are human beings on the outside of those prisons, you’re going to have contraband in prison,” he said. “This is a threat that can be absolutely eliminated.”