Committee passes bill upping penalties for possession of cell phones in prison

Oklahoma City_A bill by state Rep. T.W. Shannon that would strengthen the penalty for smuggling a cell phone into jail has passed out of committee.

House Bill 1790 would increase the penalty for possessing a cell phone or other device for digital communication in a jail or prison. Current law designates a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $500. Shannon's bill would raise the sentence to between one and five years and designate a fine between $100 and $1,000.

"Most criminals in possession of a cell phone in jail are not using it to call their loved ones," Shannon, R-Lawton, said. "They may be using them to run a drug business, to communicate with gang members or engage in some other criminal activity. House Bill 1790 would ensure that they are properly punished for this and hopefully deter them."

Shannon pointed out that possession of contraband cell phones in jail are penalized in the same way as cigarettes. He also noted that House Bill 1790 would make the penalty 20 years for an individual with prior felonies.

"I don't want gang members ordering hits or drug dealers keeping their operation going from jail," Shannon said. "I am hopeful that this legislation will act as a strong deterrent and keep these criminals truly isolated from the outside world while they are serving their sentences or awaiting trial."

House Bill 1790 now heads to the full House for debate and a vote.