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Cotton, Boozman, Colleagues Send Letter to FCC Chairman on Combatting Contraband Cellphones in Prisons

September 17, 2020

Washington, D.C. - Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) today led a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to continue to push the federal telecommunications agency to address the rampant use of contraband devices within federal, state, and local prisons that are being used to commit crimes outside of prisons. The Senators proposed several solutions to the FCC to address the issue of contraband cellphones. Joining Lankford and Cotton are Senators John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), David Perdue (R-Georgia), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia), and John Boozman (R-Arkansas).

The Senators wrote, "The use of contraband cellphones in federal, state, and local prisons is rampant, and the consequences of this illegal activity can be deadly. The ability for inmates to commit crimes from behind bars puts not only correctional officers at risk, but also other inmates and innocent members of the public.
"For years, the FCC has weighed how to deploy technologies to snuff out the use of these illicit devices. Most recently, in 2017, the FCC streamlined process for spectrum leasing and temporary authority requests. While we commend the FCC's actions, the use of contraband cellphones and the harm they are causing has not meaningfully diminished since the 2017 order. In 2018 alone, Arkansas correctional officers confiscated over 1,600 contraband cellphones. Since 2015, South Carolina correctional officers have discovered 25,000 cellphones. According to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, 52,039 contraband cell phones have been confiscated in the state's correctional facilities since 2011," the Senators continued.

The letter is being sent for comment to the FCC's proceeding "Promoting Technological Solutions To Combat Contraband Wireless Device Use in Correctional Facilities."

The full text of the letter can be read here.