8,000 cellphones found in Georgia prisons this year

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ATLANTA - Georgia prison officials are hoping a meeting this week will help make cellphones useless in prison.
 
Up until now, the federal government has blocked prisons from jamming the phones.
 
The warden at the Phillips State Prison in Buford is like every other prison in Georgia, finding illegal inmate cellphones is a major concern
 
Last month jail officials told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne they found 11 cellphones.
 
Incidents in one day at two other Georgia prisons last week underscore why a dialogue with the FCC might be so important for public safety.
 
“There is technology that could virtually put an end to cellphone use in prisons?” Winne asked Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson.
 
“Yes, jamming equipment,” Bryson said.
 
A Georgia Department of Corrections official says just last week, the same day Winne interviewed Bryson, a drone carrying four cellphones crashed in a Georgia prison yard inside the fence.
 
“(It came) in one of our entrances.  At another one of our facilities, (we had) a rather large confiscation that totaled about 50 cellphones,” Bryson said.
 
The department says so far this year authorities say they have confiscated roughly 8,000 inside Georgia prison walls, phones that could’ve been used to direct criminal organizations on the outside to harass or threaten victims, witnesses and prison staff and more.
 
Corrections says signal jamming technology exists that could strike a huge blow against inmate cellphone use.
 
But FCC regulations generally forbid its use.  
 
However, corrections hopes a visit by FCC officials scheduled for Thursday at a big Georgia prison in Jackson signals the possibility the FCC might be willing to consider a change.
 
“Hopefully we can just kind of shed some light on that, kind of explain the issues and the problems as we see it and hopefully create a dialogue. There's where we can start working together to try to come up with a solution,” Bryson said.
 
"Jammers do not just weed out noisy or annoying conversations. Jammers can prevent 911 and other emergency phone calls made by the public from getting through to first responders or interfere with police and other law enforcement communications that are critical to the carrying out of law enforcement missions," the FCC said in a statement.
 
A corrections official told Winne there are other technologies that would also require FCC assistance and the jamming devices are not ideal because they might interfere with staff radio communications.
 
But the DOC is pinning high hopes on the dialogue Thursday’s visit suggests.
 
An FCC spokesman emailed Winne saying, “We do work with prisons on alternative technologies."
 
He mentioned one in particular called "managed access."


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