Prisons will try to jam cell phones

COLUMBIA --- Hoping to crack down on illegal activity in prisons, South Carolina Department of Corrections officials might be committing some of their own.

 

Federal law prohibits state or local law enforcement from using cell-phone jamming devices. On Tuesday, officials will be shown the devices provided by CellAntenna Corp., a Florida-based company, at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.

Prison officials want to jam cell phones that are smuggled into prisons and used to conduct drug deals, intimidate witnesses, extort money and run gangs.

"The federal government knows that blocking technology can eliminate this threat without disrupting other calls," Corrections Director Jon Ozmint said in a statement.

Prison officials have asked state and federal lawmakers, law enforcement officials and the FCC to watch the demonstration.

"The FCC has not said whether it is considering a reversal, but they have been invited," said Josh Gelinas, spokesman for the department. A spokesperson for the FCC did not return calls.

Howard Melamed, CEO of CellAntenna, said South Carolina is the first state government to allow his company to demonstrate the technology. He said opponents fear their devices will block all cell phone signals.

"We're going to prove the fact that only the room will be jammed," he said.

Reach Sarita Chourey at (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.