WASHINGTON DC (NEXSTAR) – Every year, thousands of cell phones are smuggled into prisons all over the country.
Two Republicans are trying to get their colleagues to pick up their legislation, but some prison rights advocates want them to hang up their efforts.
“They’re committing crimes from within the prisons,” U.S. Rep. David Kustoff said.
Too often, criminal activity doesn’t stop when a convict begins life behind bars. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports many smuggle in cell phones that can keep them connected to crime.
“Some are ordering hits, ordering murders from within the prison,” Kustoff said.
The Tennessee congressman is working on legislation with Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton to allow state prisons to do what those at the federal level already can: jam contraband phone signals.
“It would give jails and prisons the option of using this technology,” Kustoff said.
Some prison rights advocates though argue Congress should instead work to keep contraband cell phones out of prison in the first place.
“It really is an example of closing the barn door long after the horse is gone,” said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Prison Project Director, David Fathi.
He said most prisoners depend on contraband cell phones not for crimes but to call their families – something that costs them about $10 a minute if they use a prison phone.
“If we made those phone calls affordable, contraband cell phones would all but disappear,” he said.
But the FCC doesn’t currently regulate the cost of those calls, turning its focus to blocking mobile signals.
Kustoff and Cotton’s legislation is still in the early stages. Its next stop would be a committee hearing before advancing to the House or Senate.