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South Carolina Wants To Jam Cell Phone Signals 601

Corey Brook writes "The South Carolina state prison system wants the FCC to grant them and local officers permission to block cell phone signals. News has been out about the growing problem of them perps smuggling cell phones into prisons for a while now. Inmates use cell phones as commerce, to implement fraud, smuggle drugs and weapons, and to order hits. Of course, some may use it to just talk to a loved one any time they can." Hopefully movie theaters and restaurants do it next.
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South Carolina Wants To Jam Cell Phone Signals

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  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:28AM (#25872299) Journal

    What in the hell are inmates doing with cell phones in the first place?

    In an environment where even the smallest improvised weapon can be found and confiscated, you'd think it would be drop-easy for the prison to find and confiscate a cell phone. Any inmate caught with one gets n weeks/months added to their sentence... problem solved.

    Seriously - it's prison, not a Hilton, FFS - if they need to use a phone (for speaking to their lawyer, loved-ones, etc), let 'em use a POTS phone wired into a wall somewhere.

    The solution the SC prison system is looking for? It's akin to wrapping ships in Saran Wrap to fix any potential leaks - expensive and not very workable over time...


  • by The Iconoclast ( 24795 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:32AM (#25872355)
    Hopefully movie theaters and restaurants do it next.

    Yes, because if there is one thing that I would wish of my theatre- and restaurant- going experiences, would be that they be more like prison. :P

  • Re:Mobile phones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moranar ( 632206 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:34AM (#25872367) Homepage Journal

    Or, you know, you could be annoyed by flickers of light you see with your peripheral vision.

  • by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:38AM (#25872401)
    For a long time I agreed with this but then I realized the last place I want my phone blocked in an emergency is someplace with minimum wage workers (and probably managers.) And as obnoxious as a phone is in the theater, those are the same idiots who talk to the people they come with during the film anyways.
  • Hold on there... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chaboud ( 231590 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:38AM (#25872403) Homepage Journal

    Hopefully movie theaters and restaurants do it next.

    If the problem is the noise or the light from the screens, kick people out for breaking the rules (one warning for light, no warnings for talking, for example), but I really don't want us to make a habit of jamming RF devices. That's a bit like banning alcohol to keep people from driving drunk. What if there's a fire? A crime? A doctor with an emergency who knows how to stand up and walk out when he gets a call?

    Heavy-handed solutions create tons of problems. Ask people to behave like respectful adults and kick them out the moment they fail to do so.

  • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:38AM (#25872405)
    I wouldn't. A friend of mine worked for the Red Cross, and was required to keep an emergency phone on her at all times when she was on-call-- and those on-call periods could last upwards of a week. Or how about a doctor who needs to be accessible immediately, but also has social obligations?

    We don't need jammers in theatres and restaurants. What we need are old-fashioned ushers, and old-fashioned shaming. Some asshole keeps lighting up five rows down? Shout at him to quit it. If he gives you guff, go to the manager. You'll probably get a free ticket out of the deal, and he'll get turfed. If you're at a restaurant... well sorry, but you're at a restaurant. People socialize over food.

  • Re:My concerns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:42AM (#25872443)

    Jon Ozmint (the head of SCDC) has sworn that it won't leak outside of their facilities, but I'm somewhat cautious.

    I'm pretty sure that all signals leak to some extent. If he claims no leakage at all, then he's already making ill-informed claims.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:44AM (#25872467) Journal
    OK they claim they're smuggling cellphones into prisons somehow (heh I wonder if they put them in vibrate mode ;) ).

    To me the big problem really is that if they can smuggle in stuff the size of a cellphone they can smuggle in lots of other more dangerous stuff.

    I don't get why are cellphones themselves a problem, and why the solution is jamming them. After all:

    1) If you're actually going to use the cellphones to communicate wirelessly (rather than use them to play games or other stuff), they will emit a very detectable signal.

    So it's trivial to find them if they're on.

    2) It's a prison, if prisoners are not allowed cellphones, guards can probably walk in at any time, and confiscate them after detecting them by whatever means. And the culprits involved get the usual punishment stuff.

    3) The prison could put their own cell stations and listen in. For typical GSM stuff, while the comms between the phone and the base stations are encrypted (albeit intentionally weakened crypto), the comms from the base station to the rest of the network is in plaintext. No really expensive fancy stuff needed.
  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:44AM (#25872473) Journal

    you'd think it would be drop-easy for the prison to find and confiscate a cell phone

    You've never been in prison have you? ;)

    Imagine having nothing to do for 24 hours a day other than think of ways to smuggle shit past the guards. Think you might come up with a few ideas?

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:46AM (#25872501)
    The other prisoners have a good reason to snitch about weapons. It's hard to shank someone with a cell phone, so it goes un reported.
  • Waaaaaa!!! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:46AM (#25872503)

    "Of course, some may use it to just talk to a loved one any time they can."

    Oh, don't you just feel so bad for those poor prisoners who just want to talk to a loved one? Quick, someone cue the sad violin music! Next time try not to commit a felony jackass. It really isn't that hard. All it takes is demonstrating a little concern for those around you rather than focusing on satisfying your needs at all costs.

  • by Shados ( 741919 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:47AM (#25872513)

    I agree. The issue with a lot of rules (especially rules that aren't laws, such as the ones mentionned above) is that they aren't enforced, and people don't seem to care about enforcing them. If there's a HUGE "No cellphone" sign in the theater, and someone is talking their ass off in front of me during a movie, and I politely (seriously) ask them to be a little more quiet (not even stop!), I get told to fuck off. If there's a no smoking sign in the bus stop's shelter and someone is smoking, and I ask them to take 2 steps outside of it (on a sunny day!), I'll also get told to mind my own business. And with all of these, if I tell the people in CHARGE of enforcing those rules, they'll ignore me.

    Result? People ask for more laws, or for draconian measures, like the grandparent.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:50AM (#25872541) Journal

    So anyone who works in the medical field should just have to forgo going to the movies? What about people with kids and a babysitter at home that needs to reach them? Wouldn't a better solution be for the fucking theaters to employ ushers again, whom could presumably stop people from abusing their cell phones while the movie is playing?

  • by proverbialcow ( 177020 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:56AM (#25872605) Journal

    you do NOT get to do whatever you want whenever you want. Those rights were temporarily forfeited upon conviction.

    Um, I've never been convicted and I still don't get to do whatever I want whenever I want. In fact, if I did that, I could go to jail!

  • by itsenrique ( 846636 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @10:57AM (#25872619)
    its not inmates with cellphones coming in at intake, and its probably unlikely that anyone other than a CORRECTIONS OFFICER gets a phone in for someone. the real issue is corruption here. i doubt a CO would smuggle a gun in for you at any cost, but a cell phone... well everyone has a price i guess. i think south carolinas first move should be to investigate how so many cell phones get inside in the first place.
  • by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:00AM (#25872663) Homepage
    I'd be sad. I'm on call, so I take my phone with me, set it to silent, and leave the cinema if I get called out - this happens very rarely on a saturday afternoon, but there would be trouble if I knowingly went somewhere there was no phone coverage.
  • by Sinistar2k ( 225578 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:01AM (#25872671)

    What people want to jam is not cell phones in movie theaters and restaurants. What they want to ban are the people that abuse cell phone use in those environments.

    I mention this because it seems like I'm the one guy that always has to pop into "ban the phones" threads to remind people that some of us use cell phones for emergency purposes and would rather not have to give up eating at local establishments or seeing first-run movies just because not everybody is good enough to put the phone on vibrate and leave the company of others when they get a call.

    So, hopefully movie theaters and restaurants never do it. My wife and I go out very infrequently as it is because of our son's medical needs. I wouldn't want to lose what little opportunity we have to enjoy an evening out.

  • Re:Mobile phones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:01AM (#25872673) Homepage

    That's 'cos eating still trumps talking for most people.

    How many people are going to sit there yakking while their food goes cold? Not too many.

    Food is pretty much up there with sex as far as primal instincts go.

  • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:08AM (#25872757) Homepage

    > The cinema's phone blocker could easily detect 911 calls and turn off the the blocking if it detected one.

    Really? Easily?

    Care to describe how it could easily detect 911 calls, without actually being a cellular base station in its own right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:14AM (#25872837)
    Prisoners still have rights. Its easy to fight for the rights of people you like. Its important to fight for the rights of people you don't like.
  • by DaFallus ( 805248 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:20AM (#25872927)
    Where there no emergencies or on-call before cell phones existed?
  • by Rary ( 566291 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:25AM (#25872995)

    Regarding your second point, I suspect that part of the problem is that, while guards are supposed to be the ones enforcing the rules, the sad reality is that guards are often part of the problem. It's well known that much of the prison drug supply comes from guards selling to prisoners, so it's not much of a stretch to think that guards might be supplying cell phones to prisoners as well.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:25AM (#25873005)

    I am sure that friend was not allowed to do a lot of other things. Sorry, you are on call, that means you are not able to go to a restaurant or movie. Tough luck. Talk to you employer for compensation.

    The doctors I know all turn off their phone during the movie. OTOH they also send text messages to each other during operations, where mere mortals are not even allowed to turn on their phone. (Yes, during the operation.)

    Restaurants do not give much problems here. People take the call outside after the phone was set to vibrate. If they would be on call, they would go outside every 30 minutes or so (like the smokers) and check if they have a message.

    Doctors on emergency call that I know would not go to dinners, but stayed at home. They would do the same if there were blockers.

    If those people do not like it, take a job that does not require you to be on call. I should not suffer from your career choice.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:30AM (#25873055) Journal

    But actually, I think letting prisoners have cell phones is a GOOD thing; that is, if we want to rehabilitate these people

    How does giving them cell phones that they use to commit fraud help to rehabilitate them?

  • by Intron ( 870560 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:38AM (#25873139)

    "I don't get why are cellphones themselves a problem, and why the solution is jamming them." []

    The state makes a fortune off prison telephones. All of the talk about "planning crimes" or "drug deals" is total BS.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:46AM (#25873241) Homepage Journal

    We don't need jammers in theatres and restaurants.

    Well, what we really need is more responsible people that think about other people around them a little.

    Unfortunately, that is outside of your or mine or the theater management's area. We can't change those people. But we (that is, one of us, the management) can put in jammers.

    It's not the perfect solution. But if the perfect solution is theoretical, a good practical solution will do.

  • Re:Waaaaaa!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrNaz ( 730548 ) * on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:48AM (#25873255) Homepage

    While I agree with the premise that "it's prison, it's not meant to be fun", I disagree with your "prisoners are all criminals so lets disregard their welfare" attitude.

    In this day and age, where the legal definition of a criminal and the moral definition of one are so far divorced from one another, it really can't be taken for granted that prisoners deserve to be where they are. Remember, the RIAA wants jail time for college file sharers.

    So, unless you've never shared a copyrighted song or movie with a friend, I'd lose the attitude.

  • by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:49AM (#25873265) Journal

    Yeah, because all minimum wage workers are sooooooo stupid. Why, they can't figure out how to operate a regular phone. If the building catches fire they'll probably just stand there and burn to death rather than call for help. It's common knowledge that they're so dumb that they can't drive, read or write, tie their own shoes, and they have to be reminded to breathe occasionally.

    Or maybe you're just an arrogant snob who really needs a reality check. Newsflash: a lot of those minimum wage workers you so pompously denigrated with one insulting generalization are students -- yes, even the older ones may well be students more often than you'd think -- and a great many of them have higher IQs than you or probably anyone you know. Just because you've apparently had someone give you a break so you never had to take one of those jobs doesn't mean everyone else is so fortunate. Other have had to work for a living while putting themselves through school. They didn't have Daddy set everything up for them so that they didn't have to take a menial job.

    Yes, I know a great many minimum wage workers don't do a great job at work. That's often because they don't care to, since they're still treated like crap by both managers and customers even when they out-perform circles around their co-workers who come into work hungover and try to sneak in some tokes during the day. In most cases, there's very little future in addition to being treated like you're the scum of the earth, so why bother? After all, as you so aptly proved, even when they do a good job despite the lousy pay, the mistreatment from managers and rude customers, they're still going to be treated by crap even outside their jobs by jerks like you.

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:50AM (#25873279)

    Guards don't need to be able to bring their phones into prisoner areas.

  • Re:Prison (Score:5, Insightful)

    by janrinok ( 846318 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @11:55AM (#25873321)

    That's not all. In prison, other things can get close to your mouth and nose you wouldn't want. That's why it's prison.

    And do you think that it is acceptable? The punishment of prison is to remove a person's liberty, not to have them subjected to sexual and/or physical assualt while turning a blind eye. Don't you think that, as a nation, you ought to be protecting individuals who are on the receiving end of such treatment or are you going to advocate torture, gladiatorial contests and being thrown to the lions as acceptable punishments?

    I am continually astounded that an advanced nation can condone such barbaric behaviour and then be affronted when other nations do not choose to follow the 'American' way. You know, things like 'If you are not with us, then you are against us....'. This behaviour actually makes terrorists look civilised.

  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @12:08PM (#25873511) Journal

    I would rather you hire someone competent to watch your child, stay home when your child is sick, put your phone on vibrate, and leave the room before you answer the call. In other words, not be a self-absorbed asshole.

    As a comedian said, your private is invading our public.

  • by Neoprofin ( 871029 ) <(neoprofin) (at) (> on Monday November 24, 2008 @12:13PM (#25873597)
    Last time I checked characterizing all minimum wage workers and the unsung heroes of the workforce, simply victimized by circumstance with a heart of gold, is just as misguided as characterizing all of them is incompetent.

    Of course OP only needed one sentence, so points for efficiency.
  • Re:Waaaaaa!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @12:23PM (#25873729) Homepage

    you're right, many criminals are sociopaths who commit crimes because of a lack of consideration for others. you could almost say that this disregard for others results from their complete lack of empathy.

    but it's rather naive to think that everyone in prison is "bad," or that everyone who's free is "good." and the statistics would seem to suggest that, either the legal system is screwed up [], or for some reason the United States has the highest population ratio of insensitive jackasses in the world.

    i personally would lean more towards the former. due to the "War on Drugs" the U.S. prison population has quadrupled since the 1980's (despite a decline in violent crime and property crime), causing a nation with only 5% of the world's population to have 25% of the world's incarcerated population. therefore it's doubtful that every prison inmate is a murderer, rapist, thief, or bank robber.

    so perhaps you should reconsider your holier than thou attitude and try not to be a jackass. it really isn't that hard.

  • by Neoprofin ( 871029 ) <(neoprofin) (at) (> on Monday November 24, 2008 @12:28PM (#25873783)
    No kidding.

    If all of these holier than thou smartasses want a good movie watching experience where is the cry to ban children? People with colds? People who breathe too loudly or wear the swishy coats? There are plenty of things that can annoy me when I go to a movie, and cellphones have never been one of them.

    I came to the realization long ago that my absolute guaranteed comfort does not trump the basic day to day existence of other people. While we're at it why don't we ban them is stores so that people can't talk in line, and ban them in public so people don't drive with them. In fact I find other people on cellphones annoying where ever I am, so why not just ban them altogether?

  • by superflippy ( 442879 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @12:34PM (#25873861) Homepage Journal

    It's not so much that, it's that our prison system is severely underfunded. SC spends less per prisoner than any other state and has a higher per capita prison population than most. We just don't have enough guards to properly enforce rules.

    It's gotten so bad that the head of the Dept. of Corrections wants to let nonviolent offenders go early [] to save money and ease the crowding.

  • Re:Mobile phones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @01:10PM (#25874343) Homepage

    For the cells, work areas, cafeteria, medical area, etc, you're probably right. If it's planned into the construction it's probably only a minor additional expense - And that would likely solve most of the problem.

    However, passively blocking the exercise yard is going to be tough... I think out there you're going to have to go active or just hope that the guards will notice if somebody out there is mysteriously crouching and talking to their hand.

    [Disclaimer - The only prison I've seen close-up is Alcatraz and I learned most of what I know of prison anatomy from movies & TV. They do have big out-door areas, right?]

  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @01:16PM (#25874411)

    In male prisons there are tiers (usually 3) that range from white collar criminals (fraud, drug posession) to your serious felons (rape, murder). In female prisons, there is 1 tier (which is why there are more fights, injuries, and deaths per capita for females across the nation in state facilities). Declaring that prison should be unpleasant is small minded and truly an oversimplification of hard problems.

  • Re:Prison (Score:2, Insightful)

    by msromike ( 926441 ) * < minus author> on Monday November 24, 2008 @01:25PM (#25874551)

    It is a fallacy to assume that because there is sexual predation in some American prisons that the next logical step is to have wild animals maul prisoners for sport. In fact, in US Federal prison it is actually quite unusual. Are you sure that sexual predation is not a problem around the world as well? What about Turkish prisons for instance?

    In the case of your argument your anti-American bias is quite clear. However, it does not logically follow that because there is sexual predation in some American prisons that the American people individually or as a nation are concerned one way or another how other countries choose to punish their criminals.

    Even though it is moderated as insightful it comes across as a rant that comes to conclusions with fallacious reasoning. I am not sure if that was your intent or not.

  • Re:Prison (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @03:08PM (#25875851) Journal

    And do you think that it is acceptable? The punishment of prison is to remove a person's liberty, not to have them subjected to sexual and/or physical assualt while turning a blind eye.

    Don't be silly. The government wouldn't be able to keep so many decent people in line if jail was just a time-out. Ordinary people might actually be willing to practice civil disobedience or other forms of protest if the worst that would happen is they'd spend time in a cage isolated from society. No, to let prison really keep people in line, the authorities rely on two things -- prison rape is #1, and your complete isolation from decent society even once you're out of prison is #2.

  • Re:Mobile phones (Score:4, Insightful)

    by narcberry ( 1328009 ) on Monday November 24, 2008 @08:14PM (#25879509) Journal

    and dead prisoners.

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper