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Cell phones may become contraband in federal prison

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It’s not a crime to for an inmate to have a cell phone in federal prison. KPCC’s Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde says there’s a move to change that.

Cell phones aren’t on the list of contraband items in federal prison. Senator Dianne Feinstein says that's a loophole in federal law that should be closed. The California Democrat, along with Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, is sponsoring a bill to do that.

Feinstein says criminals use cell phones to commit credit card fraud, run drug trafficking operations, even order gang murders – all while locked up in federal prison. Senator Feinstein also supports a bill to let state and federal prisons use electronic devices to jam cell phone calls dialed from behind bars.

Current regulations from the Federal Communications Commission prevent anyone from jamming cell calls. Feinstein backs a bill by Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson that would allow prisons to petition the FCC for exemptions, as long as the jamming doesn’t interfere with cell calls outside the prison.