Oklahoma Department of Corrections for years has faced a problem with contraband cellphones in prisons.

The issue came to a head in September 2019 when inmates used cellphones to orchestrate a series of gang fights in six state prisons. Several guards were injured, 36 inmates were hospitalized and one prisoner died.

After the fights, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order directing DOC to acquire technology that can detect and deter contraband cellphone use.

Now, according to Oklahoma Watch, DOC officials are looking at a pilot program to test cellphone detection wristbands. The goal is to stop cellphone use in prison without jamming networks or violating other federal regulations. The wristbands will report an inmate’s location every hour and alert prison staff whenever cellphone radio frequency waves are detected.

The first location will be Lexington Assessment and Reception Center.

Corrections officials told Oklahoma Watch the wristbands could put a dent in organized crime activity and help eliminate illegal cellphone usage.

However, some inmates and their advocates fear the implementation of the devices could prompt the kind of violence against those inmates wearing the bracelets.

We aren’t sure if the bracelets are the way to go, but DOC needs to do something.

Unfortunately, one solution is not available. Jamming cellphone signals is pretty simple, but the federal Communications Act of 1934 prohibits state agencies from operating jamming equipment. Unless Congress changes that law, jamming isn’t a possibility.

Jamming, though, isn’t without its concerns. There is a possibility legal signals outside prison could be affected.

DOC officials have said the bracelet project is one of several they are considering for use inside state prisons.

We would like to see such a broader approach. As technology improves, there surely will be a better solution present itself.

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