FCC approves measures intended to combat prison cellphones

Updated: Mar. 23, 2017 at 12:46 PM EDT
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By MEG KINNARD
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP/WIS) - Federal officials have taken a step toward increasing safety in prisons by making it easier to find and seize cellphones obtained illegally by inmates.

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted Thursday to approve rules to streamline the process for using technology to detect and block contraband phones in prisons and jails across the U.S.

The vote came in Washington after testimony from Robert Johnson, a former corrections officer at Lee County Correctional Institution who was nearly killed in a shooting orchestrated by an inmate using an illegal cellphone.

"There's no valid reason for a locked-up criminal to have access to a cellphone. None," he told the commission. "Not to call 911, not to call home. Absolutely none."

Johnson has become an advocate on the issue. He wants state prisons to be able to jam cell signals, but that would require congressional changes to a decades-old communications law.

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