SOUTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Pressure has been put on congress to consider a hearing and potential passing of a bill introduced by Republican senators.

The bill would allow state prisons to jam cell phone signals on-site to reduce the high volume of cell phones illegally being used by inmates.

The bill, titled the Cellphone Jamming Reform Act of 2022, was introduced by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and S.C. Senator Lindsey Graham last year after it failed to receive a hearing when first presented in 2019.

The bill requests that the Federal Communication Commission allow cellphone jamming at state prisons, which is already allowed at federal prison.

The bill states that the jamming system prevents, jams, and interferes with cell phone signals.

It also states:

“With respect to a jamming system, the operation of the system shall be limited to the housing facilities of the correction facility in which the system is located.”

The state will be on the hook for footing the bill.

Though the bill has failed before, there is renewed hope for those who have pushed for change, including S.C. Director of the Department of Correctional Facilities Bryan Stirling.

Stirling, who has pushed for more than a decade for this ability, said, “cell phones in prison are the biggest public safety threat that this country faces.”

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW: Sign up here for QC News Alerts and get breaking news sent straight to your inbox

In his time on the job, he has seen contraband cell phones be used by inmates to threaten, harass and stage an assault on inmates and correctional officers.

South Carolina was also home to a prison riot in 2018 that turned deadly, starting from using a cell phone.

“We have got to do something; we have got to change something now,” he said.

On Wednesday, 22 state prosecutors sent letters to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to consider the bill.

State prisons have taken action to stop some avenues cell phones are being given to inmates, including the addition of nets around the perimeter to prevent them from being thrown over.

However, this led to a new trend of drones dropping cell phones off to inmates.

“They are watching everything we do, and they’re putting a lot of money into it to try and beat the system,” Stirling said.

There has been a dip in cell phones making their way into prison walls in South Carolina.

In 2016 there were 7,226, while in 2022, there were 2,246.

“All it takes is one,” Stirling stressed. “With these cell phones, they’re able to – from a prison cell – they’re able to operate the same way they did out in the streets.”

📲 Download the Queen City News app to stay updated on the go. 📧 Sign up for QC News email alerts to have breaking news sent to your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories on for Charlotte, NC, and all of the Carolinas.

That played out in 2021 when authorities found an inmate had allegedly used a cellphone to continue operating his drug empire since 2013.

The FCC has adopted a protocol that will allow state prisons to apply to cut the signal to contraband cell phones one by one.

S.C. has applied, but as of Wednesday, Stirling said that he had yet to be given a timeline for what they can move forward.