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Senate Approves Cell Phone Jamming

Washington AFRO, News Report, Melanie R. Holmes Posted: Oct 20, 2009

(October 15, 2009) - His death could save lives.

Carl Lackls mother holds onto that hope to deal with the heartbreak of losing her son.

Since his murder two years ago, Margaret Shipley has been pushing for the Safe Prisons and Communications Act of 2009. Had it already been the law, there would be no need for Lackls MySpace memorial page, where donations for his now 3-year-old daughter who witnessed her fathers death can be made. His sister would not suffer from post traumatic stress disorder from watching her big brother lie dying in the street. And Shipley would not describe her family as broken, because Lackl would not have been gunned down in front of his home.

By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate recently approved the Act, which is the first step in allowing states to seek permission to block cell phone signals in prisons, preventing calls like the one drug dealer Patrick Byers made from behind bars to order a hit on Lackl. Using two contraband cell phones obtained from correctional officers, Byers made around 1,700 calls, including one used to successfully intimidate a witness during his murder trial and another to contact conspirators who murdered Lackl, also a witness, for $2,500. The cell phone jammers are the best things to do to stop all this, Shipley said. I just want people to be safe.

While close to 850 illegal cell phones were confiscated from prisons last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently prohibits cell phone jamming. U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski called the Senates approval of the Act a big step toward ensuring the safety of citizens left unprotected without cell phone jamming.

I think it passed because it was a compelling need to protect the good people in our communities, she said. I was appalled to find out what was going on in our prisons after our police would catch the crooks and the bums. There they are sitting in prison using their cell phones to order contract killings.

According to Gov. Martin OMalley, Maryland saw an 11 percent reduction in violence last year and a 10 percent decrease this year. He believes the passage of the Act will further contribute to the decline. Giving the state the ability to jam cell phone traffic going in and out of prison is so obviously beneficial to public safety, OMalley said. We spend so much effort tying to search out contraband in prisons.

Opponents of the legislation fear for the safety of correctional officers who may need to get in touch with family members. But land lines will still be available, the governor replied. We do not see any compromise to correction officer safety by jamming cell phones, he said. There [are] various ways that contraband gets into the prisons in the unions, one of them is correctional officers themselves.

The trial for Lackls July 2007 slaying concluded last month with several guilty verdicts and lengthy sentences for Byers and the hitmen. But Shipley is not stopping there. She doesnt want another family to experience her grief and is actively seeking the signing of the Safe Prisons and Communications Act of 2009.

Thats my purpose, she said. Im just fighting for something that was unfair. I cant believe before my son got killed that no one ever said contraband cell phones are so bad.

Apparently, Lackl didnt know the depth of the situation, either.

He said, Mom, I know what Im doing, Shipley recalls. He tried to do the right thing. Its just the outcome wasnt good.

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