S.156 – Bans cell phones in prisons
S.156 would codify Department of Corrections’ (SCDC) current policy by making it illegal for a person to bring a telecommunication device (including cellphones, laptops and handheld radios) into any state or local prison or jail without permission. A violation of this law would carry a penalty of up to three years in prison and the forfeiture of all “earned work credits, education credits and good conduct credits”. Inmates have long been prohibited from having cell phones in prison, and SCDC began enforcing similar rules for visitors in 2016.
This law – while a step in the right direction – won’t eradicate the longstanding problem of illegal cellphones if South Carolina’s prisons don’t have the necessary resources to manage the issue. A more effective approach would be to properly fund the department and allow it to pursue more practical solutions, such as blocking inmates’ cell phone signals, which it started doing last year.