Were Jamming, and Hutchison Hopes You Like Jamming Too

It’s not quite a Bob Marley song, but prison wardens could soon have the right to jam cell phone connections, preventing inmates from using smuggled devices.

The Senate has passed a bill approving the cell phone jamming in prisons. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, sponsored the legislation. She’s been working on the jamming issue since last year.

If the House also passes the measure, prisoners will have to ask the FCC for permission to jam cell phone signals, and prove the jamming won’t interfere with legitimate communications such as public safety radios.

“This legislation will disconnect the communications networks that prisoners and criminal enterprises have patched together using smuggled cell phones,” Hutchison said in a prepared statement.

The FCC would have additional responsibilities – it would be required to conduct field tests of jamming equipment and consider other technologies that would serve the same purpose.

Jamming is banned under current law. CTIA-The Wireless Association has spoken out against jamming the past, as have several public-interest groups.

Hutchison started pursuing jamming legislation after a Texas death row inmate used a smuggled cell phone to harass and make death threats against a state senator. The Safe Prison Communications Act of 2009 features Republican, Democrat and Independent sponsors.

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