The nation is one step nearer to a law that would ban Federal prisoners from using mobile phones. The House of Representatives has approved Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) Cell Phone Contraband Act (S. 1749) on Tuesday, which classifies any cell phone used by an inmate as a "prohibited object."
The Senate has also passed the bill, which received praise from the wireless industry. "We strongly oppose prisoners having access to contraband phones and believe inmates, and anyone who supplies them with a device, should be severely punished," declared CTIA - the Wireless Association.
The group is doubtless happy that the bill doesn't approve cell phone jamming technology, which CTIA also strongly opposes. That's the bailiwick of Senator Kay Hutchison (R-TX), whose Safe Prisons Communications Act would permit "targeted interference" against mobiles in prison. The bill passed the Senate in October.
The main motive for these laws is to keep prisons secure. But Feinstein's legislation also addresses concerns that cell phones are sometimes smuggled into prisons because of the high cost of landline access in these facilities. That was the logic of Rep. Bobby Rush's (D-IL) Family Telephone Connection Protection Act (H.R. 1133).
Rush's bill noted that per-minute charges in some facilities go as high as $1 with a $3.95 service or connection charge. Many prisons limit communications to collect calling.
"Excessive inmate telephone service rates thus weaken the family and community ties that are necessary for successful reentry into society by persons who were formerly incarcerated and the reduction in crime resulting from successful reentry," the bill opined. It would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to regulate rates.
Feinstein's proposed law doesn't go that far. But it does require the Comptroller General to issue a report to Congress on ways to "lower telephone costs to inmates and their families, while still maintaining sufficient security."
<...and what exactly would be the major negative effect if they had unlimited access to communication?>