State, federal officials push cell phone jamming in U.S. prisons
06/11/10
The Calvert Recorder

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Successful test spurs focus on legislation in Congress

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Gov. Martin O'Malley are pushing for Congress to enact a law to allow cell phone jamming equipment to be installed in prisons nationwide.

A report released last month on a February test requested by Mikulski (D) and O'Malley at a Cumberland prison showed the equipment would not interfere with cell phone signals outside of the facility.

"It worked as we said it would," said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for O'Malley (D).

Cell phone companies objected to the use of the jamming technology, saying it would "bleed outside of the walls" and interfere with other nearby signals, Adamec said.

The two politicians have pushed for the cell phone jamming equipment to be allowed at prisons as a way to prevent inmates who get ahold of contraband cell phones from continuing their criminal activities or threatening or harassing witnesses and victims.

A bill sponsored by Mikulski has passed the Senate, but the House of Representatives has yet to vote on a version of it.

"Law enforcement needs every tool available to fight the violent crimes that are being orchestrated by criminals using illegal cell phones behind bars," O'Malley said in a statement.

The February test was performed by the federal government at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland.

Corrections departments across the country are reporting a sharp increase in the number of cell phones smuggled into prison facilities.

Maryland corrections officers have confiscated more than 3,600 phones statewide since 2008, including 765 so far this year.