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Senator Lankford Pushes to Prevent Use of Contraband Cell Phones in Prisons

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s floor speech. 

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor on the issue with contraband cell phone use in prisons. In 2018, Oklahoma state prisons confiscated 7,518 cell phones from inmates. Lankford used examples from Oklahoma to show how this issue is impacting the state. Lankford is pushing for a change in federal law that will allow states to use jamming technology to prevent the use of contraband cell phones in prisons.   


0:01-0:38 – On Facebook, a posting was made not long ago and it was sent to a correctional facility in Oklahoma and this was the posting, simply a question: ‘How do I contact the facility regarding your inmates that sex offenders have a cell phone in your prison and they’re having contact with children on social media?’ An inmate that is a sex offender with a cell phone in a prison in Oklahoma contacting children should give a chill to all of us.

0:41-2:00 – Just in Oklahoma last year 7,518 cell phones that were contraband cell phones were picked up in Oklahoma prisons. Just last year, 7,518 contraband cell phones. This is within the correctional facility [referring to floor chart]. This is from one of the facilities. That table is 12-feet long. In many spots, the cell phones are stacked up to ten deep on this picture. These were all taken from inside the prison. If you want to know what that looks like for the whole state and how that’s gathered, the picture would look like this. This is the gathering of cell phones from my state from correctional facilities across the state. The challenge that we have is for all of us. How do we stop these cell phones from getting inside the prison? That’s a corruption issue and sometimes it’s a perimeter issue. Will it be wrapped up in duct tape and thrown over the fence? They will be slipped through at some point. They will have a guard or person who works inside the prison to be paid off to be able to deliver it, to be able to drop it in a certain spot, but the result of it is the same. 

2:16-2:47 – We have consequences of individuals. For instance, white collar criminals are continuing to be able to run their company. There was a famous occasion of the person that was known as the ‘pharma bro’ that bought up pharmaceutical companies, drove out the competition, and jacked up the price and ended up going to federal prison on this. Even from within the prison, he was able to get access to a cell phone in the prison and continue running his pharmacy operation, even inside the prison.

2:48-3:08 – An occasion not long ago in Oklahoma that an individual who is a murderer while he’s in the state penitentiary used smuggled cell phones to direct others to distribute methamphetamine for him across all of northeastern Oklahoma. He’s running a meth ring with his cell phone inside the prison.  

4:39-6:23 – The two issues that have to be addressed, stopping the flow within them but the second, more obvious issue that I hear from people when I raise this issue to them is they say, ‘Why can’t the prisons just jam the cell phones?’ Great question. Federal law does not allow state prisons to jam cell phones. Why don’t we change that law? Great question. A question that should have been answered by this body a long time ago but communications companies and cell phone company lobbyists overwhelmed this body and pushed back and say, ‘Let’s study the issue.’ 

For years the cell phone lobby has come to Members of Congress and said, ‘Totally agree with you, that’s a problem, let’s study it.’ I’ve met personally, for now, several years with the leadership of the FCC who has the jurisdiction over this and said, ‘Let’s resolve this issue about prison cell phones,’ and every year when I met with FCC folk, they say, ‘We’re studying it.’ At the same time, meth rings and sexual predators are operating inside our prisons, we’re studying it. I waited patiently until the last study just came out. You want to know the summary of the last study that just came out on cell phones in prisons and jamming it? The study basically came back and said, ‘We need more study on this issue,’ was the result of the study.

8:58-9:20 – My suggestion is simple. Let’s jam cell phones in prison for the protection of our guards, for the protection of our families, and to be able to block criminal activity from happening inside our prisons. We know how to do this. We have the technology to do this. This body needs to address it in law and makes sure it gets resolved in the days ahead. I look forward to passing that, not doing one more study and delaying action on it.