South Carolina’s prisons director says his agency plans to test new cell phone-blocking technology next month.
Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling told a group of state lawmakers Thursday that contraband cell phones being used by inmates in state prisons are still a major problem. “These folks are incarcerated physically, but virtually they’re out there,” he told members of the Joint Bond Review Committee, which approves additional spending by agencies outside their set budget.
State prison officials say the technology can jam cell phone signals to prevent inmates from using contraband phones. The trade group Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association is helping.
CTIA lobbyist Gerard Keegan told the committee Thursday the organization is working with the SCDC “to administer a test bed of contraband interdiction technologies, including jamming.”
The technology is not as reliable as the blanket jamming technology banned by the federal government. It does allow approved calls to get through, but must be updated every few months.
Stirling told the subcommittee that more than 4,000 contraband cell phones or parts, such as chargers and SIM cards, were seized in state prisons over the last 12 months.
The equipment will be tested at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville. SCDC investigators have said contraband phones were at least partially to blame for a riot at the prison in April which killed seven inmates.