Obama Signs Law Banning Cell Phones in Federal Prison

Hoping to stop federal inmates from directing crimes from behind bars, President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday a prohibition on cell phone use by prisoners.

...The Federal Bureau of Prisons confiscated more than 2,600 cell phones from minimum security facilities and nearly 600 from secure federal institutions last year.

"Now that this bill has become law, prison gangs will no longer be able to use cell phones to direct criminal attacks on individuals, to decide territory for the distribution of drugs, or conduct credit card fraud," said Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-California, a co-sponsor of the bill.

"Making it illegal for criminals to use cell phones and wireless devices in federal prison cuts their communication link and helps keep our communities safe," said her Republican counterpart, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

...The new law calls for a government study to be issued in a year to measure the effectiveness of the new prohibition.
The law not only bans cell phones, for which, according to a government report, inmates will pay up to $1,000, but other wireless devices as well—and "calls for up to a year in prison for anyone found guilty of trying to smuggle one to an inmate."

So, here's what bothers me about this law: There's no nuance. Someone found in possession of a mobile phone which zie has been using to coordinate criminal activity is not distinguishable under this statute from someone found in possession of a mobile phone which zie has been using to chat benignly with family members, or to speak with an attorney who's filing an appeal for a wrongful conviction.

I would hope that confiscation of any wireless device would be followed by an investigation into its use before formal charges were filed, but I suspect that most federal prisons won't be keen to use their discretion in the application of this law.

Especially when a conviction for possession means another sentence and more time served. Which is more money in the pockets of the corporations housing many of our federal prisoners in private/subcontracted prisons.


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