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Stopping contraband phones in prisons: cell phone reps meet with FCC, prison officials

Cell phones (File/WCIV)

The meeting has been 14 years in the making. The cellphone industry, The FCC, lawmakers, and leaders running our nation's prisons sat down to discuss getting cellphones away from inmates on Wednesday. The Director of South Carolina prisons was at the table.

“This is the first time they've agreed to actually sit down and help us fix this problem.” Stirling said.

South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said cellphones are an issue in prisons worldwide and there's an easy fix that has been blocked on the federal level.

“We're having to spend a lot of tax dollars on this problem when there's a simple solution, which I’ve gone back to is jamming," Stirling says. "But again, if the cellphone industry has a better solution, they know their technology better than we do, we want to work with them, sit down with them, we want to hear what they have to say.”

Stirling said thousands of cellphones were found in South Carolina prisons in 2017.

"We found about 6,200 cellphones, or parts, in prisons last year. Other states have had similar issues," the prison director says.

Congressman Mark Sanford was also at the meeting. He believes the FCC is being influenced by cellphone company lobbyists.

“There are a lot of lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and cellphone companies, and their representatives, in the form of association have had undue and frankly excessive influence in the debate.” Sanford said.

He said this meeting is a step in the right direction; but ultimately the decision lies with the FCC and lawmakers.

“The proof will be in the pudding. The decision makers were there. It was obviously not the kind of thing where they would walk out of the meeting with a decision, but I hope that we're a lot closer than we were.” Sanford said.

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