According to this news article, possession of contraband prison cell phones will be a felony in Alabama prisons and prison cell phone detection technology will be allowed if an Alabama bill passes. Rather than spend state funds on prison cell phone jammers, Alabama should consider a secure prison cell phone solution such as meshDETECT.
A Senate committee today approved a bill that would give the state Department of Corrections new powers to keep cell phones out of the hands of prison inmates.
The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee in the wake of an inmate uprising at the Holman Correctional Facility on April 5 that was sparked by a dispute over a cell phone, which is considered contraband.
Jeffery Williams, deputy commissioner of governmental relations for the prison system, said the bill would give the agency the authority to contract with a communications company to detect cell phone communications from prisons.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen R-Cottondale, would have elevated possession of a cell phone from a misdemeanor to a Class C felony.
After Chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, expressed concerns over a heightened penalty, Allen agreed to amend the bill to make possession of a cell phone a Class A misdemeanor with a penalty of up to a year in prison and a $6,000 fine.
Williams said the incident at Holman occurred when a correctional officer attempted to take a cell phone away from an inmate.
The incident escalated into a disturbance during which inmates seized control of one wing of the maximum security prison for about four hours. It took a prison system tactical team using tear gas to quell the disturbance.
Williams said that, after the disturbance, the department was informed by Escambia County officials that the county’s 9-1-1 system had been receiving “a huge volume” of calls that were traced back to cell phones in four prisons in the area.
“This is an important piece of legislation that will give us an opportunity to address this issue that’s a huge problem for the Department of Corrections,” he said. “Cell phones are smuggled in our facilities and we believe there is technology out there that will detect these cell phones within the system and disrupt these cell phones.”
Williams said the department already has confiscated 5,000 cell phones.