WASHINGTON -- California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to pass a new law to ban the use of cell phones by inmates in federal prisons.
She has teamed with Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to introduce a bill that would do just that.
It's an attempt to prevent prisoners from committing crimes while inside prison walls. The bill would close a loophole by prohibiting the use or possession of all cell phones and wireless devices, which would be considered contraband. Any person who provided or attempted to provide an inmate with a cell phone could face a prison sentence of up to one year.
"A cell phone should never be in the hands of a prisoner," Feinstein said. "The presence of these cell phones poses a grave safety concern for staff, inmates, and the public. We know that inmates use these phones to conduct criminal business outside of prison walls, including directing gang hits, controlling drug trafficking operations and even conducting credit card fraud."
Grassley said the bill is "a common-sense solution" to make sure prisoners can't continue to commit crimes while behind bars.
Currently, the senators said, cell phones found in prisons are not defined as contraband, and guards and inmates found smuggling or possessing a cell phone in a federal prison are rarely punished, they said.
In 2008, the senators said, Federal Bureau of Prisons staff confiscated 1,519 cell phones from federal prison camps and 255 cell phones from secure federal institutions.