Readers will recall many historical instances where this crimefighting technique was effective - that's how they got Bonnie and Clyde, after all.
In any event, while this kid-gloves approach to conspiracy to commit a federal crime may sharply contrast with tough on crime rhetoric we're used to hearing from the Texas AG, it will likely be enough to prevent the testing of cell phone jammers designed to eliminate cell phone contraband inside Texas prisons. At the request of legislative officials, TDCJ planned such a test on Thursday, but Abbott now says if the agency goes ahead they "could be exposed to legal consequences."
Still, the conspirators are pushing forward, according to the Austin Statesman ("Cell phone jamming test off," Dec. 15):
To be fair, it doesn't seem right to critique TDCJ as "ineffective" or "indecisive" for complying with the Attorney General's interpretation of whether or not the test would violate the law: We already knew it did. Besides, cell phone jammers are already used in some theaters and other private sector settings; they're fairly well known to work as advertised and I don't see why they need to be "tested."
Legislative leaders who supported the test were unhappy with the cancellation.
“I think it’s a good question why they’re backing up on this,” said House Corrections Committee Chairman Jerry Madden, R-Richardson. “But if they don’t want the test on their unit, fine, we’ll find someplace else to do it. We’re in the process of punting right now —looking for some place else to do it.”
Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who earlier prompted the crackdown on smuggled prison cell phones after receiving calls — and a death threat —from a death row convict, said prison officials should go ahead with the test. “This shows some very indecisive leadership at TDCJ, and it proves my point that I just don’t think they get it on this issue,” he said.
What's needed instead is for the US Congress to change the 70+ year old statute, and that's not going to happen by this Thursday. Otherwise, testing the jammers without permission when they know it's against the law would amount to a bizarre and pointless act of civil disobedience by TDCJ; by any measure that's a rickety limb to ask a state prison system to crawl out on.
UPDATE: The FCC changed its mind and now says a test would be okay, though the AG points out they've cited no legal authority to explain the flip flop.