Rep. Sanford fighting to get cell phone 'jammers' inside SC prisons


A cellphone and other contraband are said to be how inmate Jimmy Causey broke out of Lieber Correctional Institution last week. Now one lawmaker says it's critical prisons get the technology to keep up with the times.

“We can employ jamming technology that now exist that can prevent a cellphones use in a corrections facility, we don't employ that,” said Congressman Mark Sanford. He said they attempted to pass a law when he was governor.

Sanford said other lawmakers have fought against placing jammers inside of jails and prisons.

“We pushed hard on it, but ultimately, we couldn't get authorization to do so which makes no sense,” Sanford said.

He's talking about the fight against CTIA; a group that advocates for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. Sanford said most of the battle is just politics.

“A former colleague I served with in Congress who was a representative from Oklahoma became the lead lobbyist for this organization. I remember arguing with him a number of times and asking him, ‘How can he argue this with a straight face?’ this makes no sense.”

It's also been a losing battle thus far for the former Department of Corrections head Jon Ozmint, but he says he's still very much still in the war.

“Once Captain Johnson got shot, this was my baby,” he said.

He blames the use of cellphones in jails and prisons on the attempted murder of Robert Johnson, a former corrections officer who was shot six times. He said that crime was orchestrated from inside a South Carolina prison.

Ozmint says that cellphone jammers were actually tested at Lieber.

“We had every single carrier represented. We had law enforcement radios in the room. You go in the room, your cellphone wouldn't work. But, when you stepped outside the door, outside the walls of that room, you could make a call.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Sanford said Congress must get involved and go toe-to-toe with the FCC.

“What they've done today, I don't think is reasonable. So, it means a different interpretation or Congress forcing the issue and actually changing the law, it's one of those two.”

Sanford said he plans to write a letter to the FCC for further justification for their stance on blocking cellphone service inside of prisons. He said he'll send a copy to ABC News 4.

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