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Cotton Statement on Prison Cellphone Jamming Report

September 25, 2019
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Contact Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Justice announced the release of a report detailing the promising results and potential of contraband cellphone jamming technology in prisons:

"This report proves that cellphone jamming devices can prevent prisoners from using contraband cellphones without disrupting legitimate cellphone use nearby. Congress should take up and pass my bill, The Cellphone Jamming Reform Act, so that state and federal prisons can use this technology to stop inmates from directing criminal activities from behind bars."

Background

Earlier this year, Senators Cotton, Graham, and Representative Kustoff introduced legislation to prevent contraband cellphone use in federal and state prison facilities by allowing state and federal prisons to use cell phone jamming systems. Currently, the Federal Communications Act doesn't allow facilities to use this technology.

The use of contraband cellphones is widespread in both federal and state prison facilities. Inmates have used contraband cellphones to conduct illegal activities, including ordering hits on individuals outside of the prison walls, running illegal drug operations, conducting illegal business deals, facilitating sex trafficking, and organizing escapes which endanger correctional employees, other inmates, and members of the public.

By the numbers. The number of contraband cellphones confiscated from various locations:

  • Federal Bureau of Prisons: 5,116 in 2016
  • Arkansas prisons: 1,550 in 2017
  • South Carolina prisons: ~ 4,500 in 2017
  • Georgia prisons: ~13,000 in 2014
  • California prisons: ~14,000 in 2017

Cell Phones and Contraband Sparked South Carolina Prison Incident that Killed 7, a gang fight over territory using cellphones to trade contraband sparked a brawl inside the Lee Correctional Institution near Bishopville, South Carolina, that left seven inmates dead and 20 injured.

 

Bureau of Prisons Correctional officer Lt. Osvaldo Albarati was murdered in 2013 for interrupting an illicit contraband cellphone business. His actual assassination was initiated by an inmate using a contraband cellphone to contact the gunman as outlined in the indictment.

A 2018 report showed an FCI Fort Dix inmate arranged murder and assault from a smuggled phone in a Jersey prison. Another inmate of same Jersey prison was reportedly charged with possessing and distributing child pornography on a contraband phone within the prison. Six other inmates also pled guilty.

Contraband cell phones aren't only allowing violent criminals to continue their nefarious activities. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Martin Shkreli, the disgraced pharmaceutical executive sentenced to seven years for securities fraud, has still been making decisions at Phoenixus AG through the use of a contraband cellphone.