Gov. Nikki Haley was among a group of governors across the county who signed a formal letter asking the FCC to reevaluate how it treats illegal cell phones in prisons.
Haley’s was the first signature of the letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler putting in writing similar complaints South Carolina prisons officials have had for nearly a decade: that the federal agency is not doing all it can to block contraband phone signals. South Carolina and other states have been requesting permission to jam the insides of corrections facilities since at least 2009.
“Contraband cellphones in the hands of prisoners dramatically increase these threats to witnesses, the public, the officers, their families, and even other prisoners,” the letter states.
But the FCC has argued a 1934 law limits only the federal government to have that jamming power. Telecommunications companies say they’re worried the same technology could interfere with emergency signals and neighbors’ cell phones.
Haley and her appointed Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling testified to a sympathetic FCC commissioner last month about their concerns that contraband phones allow inmates to organize activities outside the prison walls. Also among those who testified was former corrections Captain Robert Johnson, who was shot six times at his home in a 2010 hit that the State Law Enforcement Division says was ordered by a Lee Correctional inmate using a contraband phone.
The governors of Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah — all Republicans — also signed onto the letter.