Attorney General Alan Wilson leads the multistate charge against contraband cell phones

January 25, 2023

After busting a Mexican cartel drug ring that was facilitated in large part through contraband cell phones, Attorney General Alan Wilson leads a multistate effort to call on Congress to pass legislation giving states the authority to jam illegal cell phones in prisons.

“A prison cell is no place for access to a cell phone,” said Attorney General Alan Wilson. “Inmates across the country, and here in South Carolina, are using contraband cell phones to facilitate drug trafficking, commit extortion, and even organize murders. We’re doing our part on the ground, but Congress needs to give states the power to jam these cell phones. Enough is enough.”

In the past five years, Attorney General Wilson’s office has handled four major drug trafficking cases where inmates using contraband cell phones facilitated and organized drug rings while behind prison walls–the most recent being Las Señoritas in the Upstate.

Additionally, in 2018, a deadly prison riot in Lee Correctional Institute was orchestrated and planned using contraband cell phones, leaving seven dead and 20 more injured.

Working alongside South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling, Attorney General Wilson has called for the FCC to give states the ability to jam contraband cell phones. Despite Director Stirling’s persistent and diligent calls for reform, the FCC still has not acted.

More than a year and a half ago, the FCC announced it was giving states the technology to pinpoint contraband cell phones and send the information to the cell phone carrier to be shut off within five days of notice. The S.C. Department of Corrections was the first state to apply and be approved to use this technology in 2022. But we they are still waiting to move to the next step of approval.

Inmates using contraband cell phones to continue their criminal activity behind bars is not a South Carolina specific problem­–it’s a nationwide issue. Recognizing the severity of this problem, Attorney General Wilson leads 21 states calling for Congress to pass legislation that would give states the authority to jam contraband cell phones.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and South Carolina Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC-03), William Timmons (SC-04), and Ralph Norman (SC-05) have all sponsored legislation in previous sessions addressing the issue. The respective bills have never received a vote.

The other states who joined are  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Read the full letter here.

​Read the details regarding Las Señoritas here.