ANNAPOLIS, MD (May 12, 2010) – U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and Governor Martin O’Malley today announced the release of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) report from the February test of cell phone jamming technology at a Western Maryland prison. The test, performed by the NTIA at the request of Governor O’Malley and Senator Mikulski, showed no interference of the jamming technology with federal operations of the prison within the testing area. Senator Mikulski and Governor O’Malley urged Congressional action immediately, in light of these results, on legislation allowing the installation of this technology at U.S. prisons.
“NTIA’s report is proof positive that we can jam criminals and protect communities,” said Senator Mikulski. “I and all Marylanders were shocked and dismayed to hear about this outrageous organized crime practice of using cell phones in prison to conduct criminal activities in communities on the outside while criminals enjoy a lavish lifestyle on the inside. We must move forward to allow cell jamming technology to be used, giving prison officials another tool to protect citizens. The Senate has passed the Hutchison-Mikulski Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009, and I now call on the House to expedite action on it. The bill provides another means to stop the use of illegal cell phones by allowing prison on a case-by-case basis to use cell jammers. It will help make our neighborhoods safe and give prisons another necessary tool they need.”
“Law enforcement needs every tool available to fight the violent crimes that are being orchestrated by criminals using illegal cell phones behind bars,” said Governor O’Malley. “The results of this first-ever test show that this technology did not impact the areas surrounding prisons, and should indicate to Congress the need for federal legislation to allow for the installation of this technology at prisons across the country. We must give law enforcement quick access to every technological tool available -- including cell phone jamming -- to combat illegal cell phone use on the inside and protect our neighbors and families on the outside.”
In 2009, Senator Mikulski and Governor O’Malley formally requested approval for a test from the NTIA. In February of this year, the NTIA performed that test at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, MD.
Corrections departments across the country are reporting a sharp increase in the number of cell phones smuggled into prison facilities. In Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009, Maryland corrections officers confiscated more than 2,890 illegal cell phones, and more than 765 have been confiscated in FY2010 thus far. Prisoners are using these phones to orchestrate and commit crimes.
On October 5, 2009, the U.S. Senate passed the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 (S.251), which allows states to petition the FCC for the authority to block the use of cell phones from prison. Senator Mikulski is an original co-sponsor of the bill. Under current law, the FCC does not allow cell phone jamming of any kind. The bill awaits action by the House of Representatives. Governor O’Malley introduced policy that was adopted by the National Governor’s Association in 2009 (188.8.131.52 Curbing Wireless Technology Use in Prisons) that expresses Governors’ collective commitment to curtailing this illegal practice.
The NTIA is seeking public comment on the technical approaches to preventing contraband cell phone use in prisons.
The NTIA report detailing the findings from the Cumberland test is available here <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/contrabandcellphones/NTIAPrisoncelljammerreport_TR_10_466.pdf>.