Governor Stitt issues executive order to address contraband cell phones in Oklahoma prisons

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

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Stitt today signed an executive order authorizing the Secretary of Public Safety, the Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) to research and implement technology to eliminate contraband cellphones in Oklahoma prisons and correctional facilities.

“Contraband cellphones in our state prisons have become a serious public safety concern in Oklahoma,” said Governor 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. Through EO 2019-41, we are working to address the contraband cellphone crises in order to minimize criminal activity in and out of our prisons.”

On September 14, an estimated 150 to 200 inmates in an Oklahoma prison initiated acts of violence led by inmate gang leaders and gang members, which spread to five additional Oklahoma prisons the next day.

Officials with the governor’s office say the premeditated acts of violence were facilitated by communication between inmates using contraband cellphones and resulted in all prisons across the state being placed on lockdown.

“Contraband cellphones are our number-one security threat,” Interim ODOC Director Scott Crow said. “I applaud Governor Stitt, his administration and lawmakers for their leadership and understanding of this critical problem. While our staff seize thousands every year, contraband cellphones cry out for a technological solution. With this order, we will proceed with urgency, researching the most effective and efficient methods to fight this dangerous problem.”

Officials will explore technological solutions including geo-location systems, cellphone jammers, micro cellphone jammers, controlled access systems and hybrid systems in order to stopped inmates’ access to cellphones.

“Working behind the wire is a dangerous job and contraband cellphones add even more to that threat for correctional officers,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R -Oklahoma City. “Contraband cellphones also threaten the safety and wellbeing of inmates by allowing the planning of dangerous activity within prison walls. I appreciate the Governor’s move to pursue ways that the state can crackdown on the proliferation of contraband cellphones in state prisons.”

Once the most cost-effective solutions have been identified, the executive order asks ODOC authorities to seek and obtain all legal authorizations required for the use of any technologies they plan to utilize.

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