The House has approved a measure sponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) that will prevent inmates from using cell phones to commit crimes from inside prison walls.
The Cell Phone Contraband Act passed the House by unanimous consent. The bill passed the Senate in April. It must now go back to the Senate for a final vote before going to President Obama for his signature.
The bill would close a loophole in federal law by prohibiting the use or possession of cell phones and wireless devices in federal prisons. It also classifies cell phones and wireless devices as contraband material. Whoever provides or attempts to provide an inmate with a cell phone could face imprisonment of up to one year. Currently, cell phones found in prisons are not specifically defined as contraband material. As a result, guards and inmates found smuggling or possessing a cell phone in a federal prison are rarely punished. So far this year, authorities have discovered more than 3,200 cell phones among inmates in California prisons. There are presumably thousands more that were not discovered.
The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office to study state and federal efforts to prevent the smuggling of cell phones and other wireless devices into prisons and jails as well as efforts to minimize the trafficking of cell phones by guards and other prison officials. The report is due one year from enactment of the legislation.