Georgia AG to FCC: Let jails, prisons use cell phone jammers

(The Center Square) — Georgia’s attorney general wants a federal agency to lift its ban on cell phone jammers that bars state officials from using the devices to block contraband cell phones in jails and prisons.

The Federal Communications Commission currently bars cell phone “jammers” within prisons and jails, a prohibition Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office said extends to state and local governments. Carr made his request to reconsider the prohibition in a Tuesday letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

According to data included in the letter, contraband cell phones frequently make their way into jails and prisons, creating dangerous situations for inmates and correctional officers. Georgia officials confiscated 8,074 contraband cell phones in 2023 and 5,482 to date in 2024.

“The easiest way to protect the public from the harms caused by contraband cell phones is to allow for the use of cell phone jamming technology in prisons and jails, but the FCC continues to block our efforts,” Carr said in a Tuesday statement.

“This outdated guidance limits legitimate law enforcement tools, presents dangerous conditions for correctional officers, and allows for the escalation of criminal networks both inside and outside prison walls,” Carr added. “We’re committed to combatting violent crime wherever it occurs, which is why we continue to call on the federal government to remove this substantial barrier to public safety.”

In March, Georgia officials announced the results of “Operation Skyhawk,” a months-long investigation into contraband at Georgia Department of Corrections facilities.

Authorities seized 273 contraband cell phones in facilities and arrested 150 suspects, including eight GDC employees who were immediately terminated. Bad actors used drones to help introduce contraband into the facilities.

“There are hundreds of examples from across the country of how a contraband cell phone in the hands of an inmate can be used as a deadly weapon and gives them the ability to continue their criminal enterprise,” Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said in a release.

“We are incensed by the length these individuals go to in continuing those activities and endangering the public,” Oliver added. “As attempts to infiltrate our facilities with contraband cell phones evolve, access to jamming technology is paramount in our efforts to combat those attempts.”

When asked whether he had a position on this request, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, pointed to legislation he sponsored with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to crack down on contraband in federal prisons.

In 2022, Ossoff led a 10-month-long bipartisan investigation into misconduct at U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta, now FCI Atlanta. The investigation’s findings revealed the need to eliminate illegal cell phones in the facility.