Indiana, FCC At Odds Over Prison Cell Phone Use

Jun 1, 2016

The FCC prefers not to jam cell phone signals, but to create a list of acceptable numbers and only allow calls to those.
Credit Thomas Hawk /

Indiana wants to make it harder for prison inmates to use smuggled cell phones.

Governor Pence and nine other Republican governors are asking the Federal Communications Commission to allow them to jam prison cell phone signals.

That's currently illegal under an 80-year-old law governing public airwaves.

Indiana Department of Corrections spokesman Doug Garrison says prisons confiscate phones when they find them, but know they still miss some.

Indiana inmates have been indicted for using smuggled cell phones to run drug rings from prison.

And the FCC says a Maryland murder suspect used a cell phone to order a hit on the key witness against him, eight days before his trial.

But the FCC says jamming prisoners' calls would also interfere with 911 and police radios.

The federal agency has suggested a so-called "call capture" system which whitelists specific phone numbers and blocks all other cell calls.

The agency says a pilot program at a Mississippi prison blocked more than 200,000 outgoing calls in one month.