Cell phones smuggled into prisons are how many criminals are able to continue their activities despite being behind bars. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) has introduced legislation to crack down on cell phone smuggling and hold the smugglers accountable.
Named the END CELLS in CELLS Act, the bill would prohibit any federal, state, or local inmate from possessing a phone or similar wireless communication device. Additionally, any who attempt to provide them to convicts will similarly be penalized, with fines up to $50,000 per violation as part of the Act.
An example of how prisoners use phones to continue criminal operations came in July when two Oklahoma prisoners ran a massive drug trafficking and gunrunning operation through contraband phones connected to affiliates on the outside. At one point, authorities confiscated 13 firearms from a storage facility owned by one of the affiliates, intended for sale in Mexico.
Late in January, the Los Angeles Times reported how four members of the Mexican Mafia were able to coordinate the murder of a former member over contraband phones. Furthermore, the Times described how cell phone smuggling is lucrative for prisoners and crooked prison staff, with a single phone worth up to $2000.
In his press release, Rep. Bilirakis stated, "Americans deserve the confidence of knowing that once a criminal has been locked away, the perpetrator cannot continue to victimize others from behind bars."
Rep. Bilirakis also described the use of contraband phones for reasons similar to the two above examples, including means to "facilitate escape attempts, coordinate murders, and endanger children to sexual predators."
"We have seen prisoners use illegal devices to facilitate escape attempts, coordinate murders, and endanger children to sexual predators. Enough is enough! We can lower the incidence of criminal acts taking place from behind bars by cracking down on those who smuggle electronic devices into prisons and on those who are found in possession of these illegal devices," Rep. Bilirakis said.