STATEHOUSE – House Bill (HB) 1256, authored by State Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte), places a punishment on inmates for possessing or trafficking cell-phones in prison. The bill passed out of the House with unanimous support and will now go to the Senate for further consideration.
“With recent advances in technology, communication has become more accessible for everyone including inmates,” said Rep. Dermody. “Since 2006, over 8,000 phones have been confiscated in Indiana’s prison systems and many of these devices are being used to harbor weapons or controlled substances.”
If enacted, HB 1256 would charge inmates with a Class A misdemeanor for possession of a cell-phone. An inmate could face up to an additional year in prison and up to a $5000 fine if convicted. Also, this bill increases the penalty for cell-phone trafficking to inmates. By placing a $500 to $10,000 fine, those convicted could receive a Class C felony.
“The rise in cell phone trafficking puts both inmates and employees at risk – becoming a major prison safety concern,” said Rep. Dermody. “These devices have been used to harass victims, traffic drugs, monitor staff routine procedures or to plan prison escapes. By creating a strong deterrent against inmates possessing a cell-phone, we can work towards putting a stop to these crimes.”
Currently, the law places a Class C felony charge on trafficking a controlled substance or deadly weapon to an inmate but has no punishment for transferring or possessing a cell-phone. However in 2009, Congress had proposed the Safe Prisons Communications Act to incorporate a cell-phone blocker in state and federal correctional facilities, but the bill has not moved since the proposal was made.
“I authored this measure to fill in the gap until Congress could pass legislation that would address this issue,” said Rep. Dermody.
Visit www.in.gov/legislative for more information about HB 1256.