Cell Phones in Prison?

Cell Phone Usage among Inmates Plagues Corrections Officials

Nevada prison officials are concerned about the dramatic increase in cell phone usage among inmates over the past few years. As a result, Nevada Corrections Department director Howard Skolnik is asking the state’s lawmakers to consider legislation that would allow cell phone tracking within the prison system.

Cell phones automatically send data to nearby towers whenever they are used. Some of the information collected by these towers includes the strength of a phone’s signal and where it is originating. By collecting information from these towers, officials would then be able to detect whether or not cell phones were being used inside a prison.

Nevada prison officials believe legislation allowing cell phone tracking should be allowed because inmates with these devices can plan escapes. They are currently prohibited from jamming cell phone signals inside prisons because those phones are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. The Communications Act of 1934 currently prohibits blocking telephone calls of any kind.

A federal bill that would allow penal institutions to petition the FCC for permission to jam cell phone signals failed to pass the House of Representatives in 2009. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced again, as other states are also concerned about cell phone usage in prisons. Until then, Nevada will be restricted to having specially-trained dogs sniff for cell phones in their correctional facilities.