UPDATE South Carolina Department of Corrections officials are blaming contraband cell phones and drones for helping in the escape of an inmate at Lieber Correctional Institution, according to WIS-TV.
“We believe a cell phone was used to facilitate and give this inmate the resources to escape,” Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said during a news conference based on inmate Jimmy Causey cutting his way out of the prison with wire cutters. He was captured shortly afterward.
The problem has ramifications for the telecom industry. Inside Towers reported on a former Corrections Department officer who worked at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville and was attacked at home by escaped inmates. The guard, Captain Robert Johnson (retired), has since filed lawsuits against 20 cell phone companies and cell tower owners, accusing them of preventing blocking technology from being installed. The lawsuit alleged an inmate at the prison used a cell phone to coordinate the attack which resulted in him being shot six times at his home in 2010.
The Corrections Department of South Carolina has asked the FCC to allow North Carolina to install cell phone jammers in state prisons; federal law prevents them from doing so now.
“Cell phone jamming technology is illegal and causes more problems than it solves,” a document posted to the FCC’s website says. The Commission cites interference from the jammers with blocking public and 911 calls.
“Because of illegal cell phones, they’re able to coordinate a lot better in getting contraband in and smuggling it in,” Stirling said. “It’s a war.”
“It is senseless to me that the federal government continues to prohibit state agencies from blocking cell phones,” said South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel. “As long as cell phones are continued to be utilized by inmates in prisons, we’re going to continue to have well-planned escapes like this,” Keel told WIS-TV.
July 10, 2017