• Prison smuggling getting more creative in Georgia

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - One Georgia official says the quickest way to eliminate a public safety threat is to stop those cellphones from working inside the prison buildings.
     
    Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne first reported the Federal Communications Commission prohibits prisons from jamming the cell signals because of safety concerns.
     
    “It was definitely an eye-opener for me to hear about people using a great platform of a smartphone for such terrible purposes,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.
     
    “I’m very encouraged. Any problem that you have you’ll never get it solved unless you’re talking about it,” said Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson.
     
    A Georgia Department of Corrections investigator showed Winne surveillance video of a drone flying over a Georgia prison fence containing a payload of marijuana and cellphones.
     
    “The safest and fastest way to end the cellphones in prison is to make them not work there,” said Professional Standards Director Ricky Myrick.
     
    Myrick says he's hoping a meeting with a member of the FCC will pay off with help in fighting the phone phenomenon in prison.
     
    “They may be able to help us use jamming technology or some other type of technology that would help us manage this,” Myrick said.
     
    Myrick says Facebook posts by a mom alerted investigators to a sex offender in prison reaching out to kids on Facebook.
     
    “(The phones) allow criminal activity to continue on, both inside our fences and outside,” Myrick said.
     
    Myrick told Winne that footballs regularly spiral over prison fences with phones inside.
     
    Officials say they have found phones hidden inside secret boot heel compartments, food containers and even inside the human body.
     
    Other popular hiding spots include toilet paper rolls and hidden pockets in underwear.
     
    Myrick said one large load of loot intercepted before it got to a prison included an airsoft pistol.

    Pai said it’s unlikely the FCC will allow prisons to use cellphone jamming devices, but he indicated he will advocate that the FCC modernize its own rules to facilitate other technology-based solutions, especially getting wireless providers to help address the problem.

    He said this was his first such visit and he hopes it will help him kick start a discussion at the FCC to find solutions to the prison cellphone problem.

    Pai’s chief of staff, Matthew Berry, said one possible option to develop is “geo-fencing,” turning a prison potentially into a phone dead zone.

    State Sen. Judson Hill accompanied the FCC men, Bryson and other corrections officials on a tour of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson.

    The tour included a visit to death row, where Winne asked Cobb County inmate Virgil Presnell about cellphones on death row and he indicated he’s heard about them but hasn’t seen them.

    Warden Bruce Chapman said cellphones have been found on death row.

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