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Prison cell phone ban bill advances
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Prison cell phone ban bill advances

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Ban on communication devices in correctional facilities passses House

Communication devices are not included in current statute and offenders in possession of these devices are not punished as severely as they will be if this bill passes.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed a bill to ban all two-way telecommunication devices in Missouri jails and prisons.

House Bill 70, introduced by Rep. Chris Dinkins (R-Annapolis), is aimed at putting legislation in place to ban the possession or delivery of two-way devices into correctional facilities. This ban includes cell phones, SIM cards and any other electronic device that allows communication from inmates to individuals outside the facility.

There are exceptions in the proposed legislation for staff as the bill is focused on keeping these devices out of the inmates' possession.

It’s already a statute that possession or delivery of contraband-like weapons and drugs is illegal and carries penalties but Dinkins’ bill updates the statute to include telecommunication devices.

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“There have been several instances of offenders being caught with a cell phone or SIM card in their possession,” Dinkins said. “But right now, since it’s not really listed in the statute, there’s not much [corrections officers] can do except slap them on the hand.”

Dinkins said the bill contains stiffer consequences to ensure the staff are kept safe while working in the facilities.

According to Dinkins, an inmate will obtain a single cell phone and pass it around to other inmates to use, with their own SIM cards, to text and make calls at night.

The bill will not affect correctional facilities that utilize electronic devices like tablets for inmate use as these devices are monitored and, in most cases, not considered two-way devices.

The bill has now passed in the House and is being presented to the State Senate for first read.

Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com.

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