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Oklahoma leaders looking toward federal legislation to help with prison contraband issue

Cellphones and electronic devices seized in a contraband bust in 2016. Courtesy: DOC

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections say they are still looking at solutions since contraband cellphones continue to be an issue in prisons across the state.

“Contraband cellphones in our state prisons have become a serious public safety concern in Oklahoma,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “This is a technology issue that must be answered with a technology solution in order to efficiently and effectively improve safety for our inmates, Department of Correction employees and citizens of Oklahoma.”

Thousands of cellphones are seized each year, but prison officials say the problem is still out of hand.

Last month, hundreds of Oklahoma inmates took part in large gang fights across several facilities. Officials with the governor’s office say the premeditated acts of violence were facilitated by using contraband cellphones and resulted in all prisons across the state being placed on lockdown.

On Sept. 27, Gov. Stitt issued an executive order to allow state leaders to look into ways to eliminate contraband cellphones in state prison facilities.

Leaders at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections testified before an Oklahoma Senate Committee about the growing problem, saying they are prohibited from using one of the best tools to stop illegal cellphone usage.

Right now, jamming is illegal federally.

However, legislation that is pending in Congress would allow the technology in certain instances.

The Cellphone Jamming Reform Act of 2019 would allow state and federal prisons to use jamming systems to interfere with cellphone signals within prison facilities.

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