Cell Phones in Jails

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How the Government Is Combating the Problem Posed By Cell Phones in Jails

Inmates in correctional institutions across the country are smuggling cell phones inside jails and making unmonitored and unsupervised calls from jails. This has created a great problem for jail security, as the inmates use cell phones to plot and escape from jail as well as to indulge in other illegal activities, such as credit card fraud, riots in prison, tax evasion, drug dealing and so on. Either the visitors or the guards in the jails conspire with these prisoners and help them smuggle cell phones inside the jails or they are cleverly thrown over the jail fencing. Since the cell phones are the prepaid type, authorities are not able to trace the phone source.

Several canine units have been trained by the California and Maryland police in order to detect cell phones present in jails, but it does not always work effectively.  In South Carolina, the authorities made a petition to the Federal Communications Commission to intervene in this regard and assist them to combat the cell phone problem in jails. They requested the FCC to issue a signal block from calls arising out of cell phones in prisons. The petition was supported by twelve other state agencies, which also signed the same and supported the passing of a new act in order to ban the signals emanating from cell phones in correctional institutions of the state. This happened just two days before the scheduled meeting of the Senate Commerce committee. The committee was meeting to discuss a hearing with regard to the waiver of federal ban in the year 1934 which did not allow the jamming of communications from prisons and other activity.

The Communications Act of 1934 was sought to be amended by the bill known as ‘S.251: Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009’. The new bill was proposed to go against the previous act that was against jamming of signals from prisons. This new bill, passed by the senate on October 5th, 2009, was supposed to allow interference with services offered by mobile radio in the jails. It was later referred to as the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. This bill would allow all states to submit a petition to the FCC and get their permission to jam cell phone signals from jails, so that the cell phone problem among inmates in correctional institutions could be successfully tackled.

What Is The Safe Prisons Communications Act 2009?

The Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 is an amendment to the Communication Act of 1934. According to the Act of 2009, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the state’s chief executive officer can submit a petition to the FCC. The petition can request permission for the installation of mechanisms which jam or block mobile communication within the area of the jail that is under the Officer’s jurisdiction. The Act also requires that the device used for jamming be operated only according to the given directions and that it make use of the capacity to limit wireless communication within the area of the jail alone.  The jamming should not affect areas outside the correctional facility. The Act also states that the Federal Communications Commission should state all the necessary criteria for the manufacture of such devices as well as conditions for selling or importing the device from one state to another by shipment.


  1. States Seek to Jam Prison Cell phone Signals, By Solomon Moore, Published: July 13, 2009


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Cell Phones in Jails

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