COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — According to officials, they have been able to shut off hundreds of illegal cell phones at one state prison since July of this year.
This week, state Department of Corrections (SCDC) Director Bryan Stirling spoke to the Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) about a pilot contraband cell phone program launched at Lee Correctional.
Stirling told lawmakers they are using technology that helps them detect unique information for each contraband phone. They can then send that information to the cell phone carrier and have the phone disabled within days.
“I think we have a solution,” Stirling said.
South Carolina was given the green light to use this disabling process by federal regulators last year. State prison officials implemented this technology at Lee Correctional in late July.
So far, about 790 contraband cell phones have been shut off at that one facility. Stirling said, “We did a search at Lee. Literally, the inmates were throwing their phones underneath the cell doors because they didn’t want them. They didn’t want to be caught with them because they were bricks.”
State prison officials say they will be requesting additional funding in the upcoming state budget to expand this program to prisons throughout the state. An exact estimate for the cost isn’t available at this time but an agency spokesperson said the expansion would cost millions of dollars
According to Stirling, another data point that shows this program is working is the increase in legitimate phone calls at the Lee Correctional. He said the prison has seen a 57% increase in these calls since they started disabling the contraband phones at the prison.
Stirling said shutting off illegal cell phones will also help reduce the number of ‘drone drops’ at the prison since inmates on the inside would not be able to coordinate them.
He told lawmakers they’ve seen an increase of these events in recent years but anti-drone technology paired with contraband phone disabling could reduce these numbers.