One more thing the states prisons dont need: Contraband cell phones
On a prison warden’s list of the phone calls he doesn’t want to receive, this might be at the top: “The inmates have taken a guard hostage, and they’re rioting.”
It is especially unwelcome if the call comes from the inmates themselves by way of a contraband cell phone, which is very likely one of many being used by prisoners.
Pity the warden at the Lee County correctional institute outside of Bishopville. It happened almost like that on Tuesday night.
But it didn’t have to. If federal law didn’t prohibit states from blocking radio transmissions, the contraband phones could be rendered useless.
That’s a big “if.” South Carolina’s Department of Corrections is one of dozens from states that have asked for permission to jam the signals just within prison walls. The process wouldn’t interfere with signals beyond the prison, and it would make prisons, which are significantly understaffed, safer for guards and prisoners.
The crusade has gotten nowhere.
So inmates in this state, and the others, continue to call their friends on the outside and tell them where and when to toss contraband phones over the fence. Worse, they continue to conduct criminal activities beyond prison walls.
S.C. prison officials say that during the past six months about 3,600 cell phones have been confiscated from inmates. The guards, during the shakedowns, might have missed the one that Lee prisoners used in the riot. Or it might be a phone that was tossed over just hours earlier. The practice is that prevalent.
Tuesday’s riot was resolved when about 100 law officers in gas masks stormed the building and rescued the guard. Jamming cell phones wouldn’t guarantee that such an incident would never occur, but it would make one more difficult for prisoners to arrange.
Until then, the Federal Communications Commission deserve the blame whenever inmates use cell phones to do harm in prisons or beyond.