- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

All over America, drug dealers continue to run their illicit trade from behind bars. This is easy because many of them have cell phones in their cells. Jammers are needed to cut off this threat to the public.

Aside from dope dealing, there are cases of murder, credit-card fraud, identity theft and prison escapes being coordinated with cell phones that have been snuck into jail. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, has introduced legislation that would empower the Federal Communications Commission to allow prisons to jam cell phones within their walls.

CTIA, a trade association representing the mobile-phone industry, and some technology interest groups oppose the measure.

Opponents to loosening jamming regulations argue that prison officials should focus on collecting phones, but limiting the supply is an uphill battle. A cell phone sneaked into prison can fetch as much as $1,000 for low-paid guards. Getting one in can be as simple as throwing it over a fence. Trained dogs, metal detectors and increased guard supervision have done little to stymie the flow of phones behind bars. In 2008, the Federal Bureau of Prisons confiscated more than 1,600 clandestine cell phones. Almost 3,000 were collected by California prison officials.

A single cell phone can be used by numerous inmates to commit crimes. In one high-profile case, Texas state Sen. John Whitmire was the target of a death-row inmate who made calls threatening the politician and his family. By the time it was found, the inmate’s phone had been used by at least nine prisoners to make 2,800 calls and text messages during the previous month alone.

Jamming technology does have downsides. It inadvertently can block phones in the general area, and it is difficult to jam cell phones while not blocking other radio signals that law enforcement and emergency responders use to communicate. For this reason, Mrs. Hutchison’s bill requires the FCC to ensure the effectiveness of any technology approved.

Criminals are incarcerated as punishment and to end their ability to break the law. Easy access to the outside world needs to be cut off to cut down on criminal activity from jail. Jamming can get the job done.

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