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Rep. Sanford Urges FCC Again to Block Cellphone Signal at Prisons

Rep. Mark Sanford, who was the former South Carolina governor, is urging the Federal Communications Commission to jam the signals of cellphones that get illegally smuggled into prison.  

“You could make a real difference here,” wrote Sanford to the FCC’s Chairman Ajit Pai last week. “In fact, there are very few things in domestic public policy that entail life and death itself. This issue does, and your actions here could literally save lives and make a profound difference.”

Although more than 7,200 cellphones were detained at South Carolina prisons last year, inmates are still getting a hold of these devices and are using them to plot criminal activities with the outside world.  

One prisoner was even able to plan an escape with the help of a cellphone. Earlier this month, Jimmy Causey managed to escape from the maximum-security prison in South Carolina for three days, but was eventually caught near Austin, Texas.

Not only did Causey use a smuggled phone, he had a drone deliver the tools he used to cut through the fences at the Lieber Correctional Institution. 

Currently, the FCC prohibits the state from using technology needed to jam cellphone signals. Back in 2010, Sanford and Correction Capt. Robert Johnson promoted a petition to start a pilot signal jamming program, but the FCC received tremendous pressure from cellphone companies.

“Despite the clear danger illegal cellphones present, the FCC caved in to industry special interests and refused to allow South Carolina to carry out its proposed pilot program,” said Sanford.

These companies are afraid the jamming will impact legal users’ phone signals and could interfere with emergency phone calls.  

Fast forward to 2017 and Sanford has said that illegal cellphone use in prisons has gotten much worse. In June, a dozen prisoners in South Carolina were caught being part of a methamphetamine ring run and used smuggled cellphones to carry out the crime. Before that, six correctional officers were attacked during an attempt to confiscate an inmate’s cellphone.  

Sanford is hoping that the recent crimes by inmates done with smuggled cellphones won’t go unnoticed.  

“This significant threat to public safety continues to grow, with more phones being seized in prisons each year as potential solutions have languished due to the lack of FCC action and opposition by powerful special interests,” said Sanford “Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to seeing you on the Hill in the not-too-distant future.”

Author’s note: This would be an easy fix and would stop criminals from communicating and operating their illegal empires. These individuals were removed from the real world for a reason, but technology is keeping them connected. Ironically, technology could also be the solution. 


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