States Seek to Jam Prison Cellphone Signals
South Carolina petitioned the [Federal Communications Commission]("http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/federal_communications_commission/index.html?inline=nyt-org") on Monday to protect the public safety by blocking signals from contraband cellphones emanating from prisons.
Officials with two dozen other state corrections agencies also signed the petition, which was filed two days before the Senate commerce committee is scheduled to hold hearings on legislation that would waive a 1934 federal ban on telecommunications jamming for prisons and other exceptional cases.
Lobbyists for telecommunication companies say that any weakening of antijamming legislation could become a slippery slope that eventually could inappropriately limit cellphone use.
Law enforcement officials say that smuggled cellphones are a growing problem across the country, allowing inmates to make unmonitored calls.
In April, a federal jury in Baltimore sentenced Patrick A. Byers Jr. to life for using a cellphone from jail to order the assassination of a witness against him.
Cellphones have been used in other state prisons and local jails to carry out extortion schemes, tax evasion plots, drug deals, credit card fraud, prison riots and escapes. Often prepaid, untraceable cellphones are smuggled into prisons with the assistance of guards or visitors, or are thrown over prison fences. Once the cellphone is inside, prisoners hide it among their belongings and often share it for a price.
The cell phone industry is worried about a “slippery slope” if we jam prisoners’ call? Cry me a river. Jamming isn’t going to interfere outside the prison.