At the request of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) will be in Washington, D.C. this week to express his support of Senator Hutchison's legislation allowing the jamming of cell phone signals within prison facilities.
In October, 2008, Senator Whitmire received numerous calls from a Texas death row inmate. The inmate had access to a cell phone which was shared with other inmates and used to make over 2,800 calls in less than a month. The following investigation resulted in a statewide prison lock-down, the discovery of hundreds of cell phones, and the indictment of the inmate and his mother and sister who helped provide the phone.
"Unfortunately, it took a death row inmate calling a State Senator to bring the issue to light and to force the prison system in Texas to recognize and begin to address the problem of contraband in our prisons," stated Senator Whitmire.
Senator Whitmire is scheduled to appear at 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, July 15th before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation chaired by Senator Rockefeller. Also invited to testify are Steve Largent, head of the CTIA Wireless Association; Gary Maynard, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services; and John Moriarty, Inspector General of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
MORE: See a blog post critical of the cell phone jamming bill, and also a letter to Senators Hutchison and Rockefeller opposing the bill from the public interest group Public Knowledge. PK makes the argument that public safety responders could be affected, and also suggests jamming signals in prison may lead to a slippery slope: "The introduction of legal cell phone jamming places this entire system at risk. History has shown that permitting the legal manufacture and sale of devices even for limited purposes will inevitably result in their becoming available on a mass consumer basis. For example, the use of wireless microphones in the broadcast bands is limited by FCC rule to a small number of licensed users and – in theory – strictly controlled to avoid possible interference with television viewing and other uses of the band."
AND MORE: See coverage from the Houston Chronicle.