MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant signed Senate Bill 2704 Wednesday.
This new legislation provides the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) a new way to cut down on the widespread use of contraband cell phones in the state prison system.
The new law allows a circuit court to issue a court order to disable a cell phone determined to be used by incarcerated individuals.
“This is another measure that is necessary to address contraband cell phones in our correctional facilities,” Commissioner Pelicia E. Hall said. “Cellphones are one of the major contraband issues not just in Mississippi, but nationwide.”
MDOC’s Zero Tolerance initiative to reduce contraband resulted in the seizure of 11,863 cellphones in 2018 from among over 30 facilities, including prisons, community work centers, regional jails and restitution centers.
The number of phones seized is 635 for the first three months of this year.
“We will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to combat cell phones because of their threat to public safety,” Commissioner Hall said. “The assertion that incarcerated persons need cell phones because of the expensive inmate telephone cost is not valid.”
MDOC lowered inmate telephone calls from $0.11 per minute to $.039 per minute in March 2018 to make the service more accessible and affordable for family members. The change was the second rate drop since March 2016 when the FCC mandated lower rates per minute for calls in prison systems.