Legislation Targets Contraband Prison Cellphones

A March 7 Cumberland-Times News article examines the challenge posed by contraband cellphones in State correctional facilities and discusses two separate pieces of legislation that are being considered by the General Assembly to address the issue.

Keeping cell phones and other electronic devices out of the hands of inmates and punishing those prisoners found with such contraband is the aim of two bills that have recently been the subject of committee hearings in the General Assembly.  …

“Cell phones are a lucrative form of contraband because, unlike drugs, they have a significant and perpetual resale and rental potential and value,” according to a fiscal and policy note to the bills prepared by the Department of Legislative Services. …

Cell phones have become a big safety issue in prisons, Gary Maynard, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, has said. Cell phones smuggled into prisons can be used to coordinate illegal activities outside the prison walls and plan escapes and attacks on corrections staff and other inmates.

Two thousand cell phones have been confiscated in Maryland prisons since 2008, according to the department.

HB 587 would have increased the penalties for an inmate possessing or receiving a cellphone and for individuals who deliver or attempt to deliver a cellphone to an inmate.  The House Judiciary Committee gave the bill an unfavorable report on March 8.

HB 1086 and SB 669 would require the Division of Correction to revoke all of an inmate’s good conduct credits when if the inmate violates rules regarding the possession of a cellphone.  HB 1086 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committe on March 13. SB 699 was heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 23.  MACo does not typically take a position on bills concerning the length of criminal sentences or the reduction of inmate good conduct credits.

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