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Crime & Courts

South Carolina Attorney General Pushes Prison Cell Phone Ban

“Congress needs to give states the power to jam these cell phones …”

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South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson wants to keep state prisoners from placing calls from behind bars with contraband cell phones – and he’s asking Congress to help him stop it.

Wilson sent a letter to U.S. House leaders on Wednesday urging them to pass legislation giving states the authority to jam cell phones illegally smuggled into prisons. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia joined in the request.

“A prison cell is no place for access to a cell phone,” Wilson said. “Inmates across the country, and here in South Carolina, are using contraband cell phones to facilitate drug trafficking, commit extortion, and even organize murders. We’re doing our part on the ground, but Congress needs to give states the power to jam these cell phones. Enough is enough.”



Wilson’s request comes on the heels of a major drug bust involving a Mexican cartel that was doing business in South Carolina. This cartel operated largely via contraband cell phones. Wilson wants congress to pass legislation granting states the authority to jam illegal cell phones inside prisons.

Wilson isn’t the first prominent South Carolina prosecutor to push for a prison cell phone ban. Former U.S. attorney (and current U.S. district court judge) Sherri Lydon made this issue a priority during her brief tenure as a federal prosecutor.

Also, S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) director Bryan Stirling has been a consistent advocate on the issue – with good reason.

The recent drug bust wasn’t the first time South Carolina criminals exploited access to phones. A riot inside Lee Correctional Institute in 2018 that killed seven people and injured 20 more was orchestrated and planned using contraband cell phones.

More recently, the attorney general’s office has handled four major drug trafficking cases where inmates using contraband cell phones facilitated and organized drug rings while behind prison walls, including this month’s crackdown on the Las Señoritas drug ring in the Upstate.

Stirling has already asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to authorize states to jam contraband cell phones. The FCC announced it was giving states the technology to pinpoint contraband cell phones more than 18 months ago – but stopped short of allowing calls to be jammed.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC-03), William Timmons (SC-04), and Ralph Norman (SC-05) have all sponsored legislation in previous sessions addressing the issue. The respective bills haven’t received a vote.



(Via: S.C. Attorney General)



Mark Powell (Provided)

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at



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1 comment

Carla Golden Top fan January 26, 2023 at 12:52 pm

J. Mark Powell, would you please explain how these contraband phones get into prisons? Thank you.


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