FCC meeting on contraband phones features ex-prison guard shot 6 times


Thursday morning’s FCC meeting promises to be dramatic: It will feature testimony by an ex-prison guard who survived after being shot six times at his South Carolina home as the result of a hit ordered on him hit by an inmate using a contraband cellphone.

Capt. Robert Johnson (ret.) of the South Carolina Department of Corrections has become an advocate for putting the clamps on contraband cellphones since that 2010 incident, and he has an ally in new FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. A year ago Pai and then South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley co-authored an op-ed piece in USA Today titled “Cellphones are too dangerous for prison.”

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There’s a push by some to implement technological methods, such as airwave jammers, to neutralize contraband cellphones, but the FCC has restrictions on its authority at the state and local levels. Some states, such as California, are putting their own plans in place — in California’s case it is in partnership with a provider of prison cellphone services that will provide all sorts of surveillance, scanning and decryption technology to stymie inmates from using wireless networks for illegal purposes.

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