Governor Kevin Stitt is ordering specific state agencies to figure out a plan to stop contraband cellphone issues in prisons.
The executive order comes nearly two weeks after the Department of Corrections says a group of inmates started fights across six different state prisons, causing a lockdown on the entire prison system. The executive order says inmates used cell phones to facilitate the fights that left one dead and 36 others hurt.
"We actually have a dog that will sniff the unique gases that a cell phone puts off. We have these towers that sense a cell phone signal when one passes by," Matt Elliott said, who is with the Department of Corrections.
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Officers monitor for cell phones often, even after "lights out." Despite seizing thousands of cell phones every year, prisons still have a problem controlling them.
7,000 cell phones were seized by the DOC in 2017 and 2019. Close to 5,000 were seized just this year.
"Inmates can use them to sell drugs, prostitution, shakedown other inmates family members for money, harass victims," Elliott said. "There is just no end to the crimes they can enable, and if there is a way we can make those unusable when people are in prison, then that would help us out a great deal."
Stitt's executive order is going to allow the DOC to find ways to control the issue.
"This is an order for us to research the best ways, the best technologies to stopping this," Elliott said. "As an agency, it is incredible to see this commitment from our state's elected leaders. It is something that we need and a lot of good things are going to come out of it."