Enhances the definition of dangerous contraband to include a gun, knife, cell phone or other wireless communication device, laptop computer, any device with global position capabilities, map, camera or explosive.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to
enhancing the definition of dangerous contraband
Purpose of Bill:
This bill would amend the Penal Law to enhance the definition of
dangerous contraband that may not be introduced into or possessed in a
detention facility by providing a non-exclusive list of dangerous
Summary of Provisions:
Section one of the bill would amend subdivision four of Penal Law
205.00, which contains the definition of the term "dangerous
contraband" as it relates to offenses committed when someone is in
custody. The bill would augment the existing definition by adding a
nonexclusive list of items that are to be considered dangerous
contraband, including: a gun, a knife, a cell phone or other wireless
communication device, a laptop computer, a device with global
positioning capabilities, a map, a camera or an explosive.
Section two of the bill provides the effective date.
Under Penal Law § 205.20, it is the class A misdemeanor of Promoting
Prison Contraband in the Second Degree when a person introduces
"contraband" into a detention facility or possesses "contraband" in
such a facility. Under Penal Law § 205.00(3), "contraband" means any
article that a person confined in a detention facility is prohibited
from obtaining or possessing by any statute, rule, regulation or
Introducing "dangerous contraband" into a detention facility, or
possessing "dangerous contraband" in such a facility is the class D
felony of Promoting Prison Contraband in the First Degree under Penal
Law § 205.25. "Dangerous contraband" means contraband that is capable
of a use that may endanger the safety or security of a detention
facility or any person therein.
Prior Legislative History:
This bill was introduced in the Senate in 2012 (S.6844); it was not
introduced in the Assembly. Similar bills were introduced in 2009-10
(S.5865) and 2011 (S.3782). Those bills addressed only the issue of
defining a telecommunication or electronic recording device for
purposes of dangerous contraband.
Statement in Support:
There is a distinction between "contraband" and "dangerous
contraband." According to the Court of Appeals in People v. Finely, 10
N.Y.3d 647 (2008), the determination of whether a particular item is
contraband or dangerous contraband is based on the "substantial
probability that the item will be used in a manner that is likely to
cause death or other serious injury, to facilitate escape, or to bring
about other major threats to a detention facility's institutional
safety or security." Items such as knives, guns or explosives are
easily and readily identified as dangerous contraband. However, items
such as cell phones, laptop computers, global positioning devices,
maps or cameras are just as dangerous, but are not always recognized
as such. These are tools easily used to facilitate an escape or other
Society has experienced a proliferation in the use of electronic media
in everyday living. The equipment is more sophisticated than ever
before and while a tremendous boon to our daily living, it has also
created a tremendous risk for the correctional system in our country
and abroad. Inmates in possession of this technology can circumvent
the safeguards and controls imposed on their communications.
Correctional systems monitor the content of calls and the numbers
dialed to ensure safety. However, an inmate could utilize a cell phone
in real time to organize an escape, or a laptop computer to run an
illegal organization. These are not just possibilities, but very real
events. In Brazil inmates used a cell phone to organize a riot and in
Canada an inmate used a cell phone to run a drug ring.
The law cannot anticipate every item that is dangerous contraband, yet
there are certain items that are so clearly capable of causing death
or facilitating an escape that they can be easily identified. The
intent of the bill is not to list every item, but to eliminate any
ambiguity regarding certain items that are indisputably dangerous when
in a correctional system. While the bill could have been drafted to
address only the issue of telecommunication devices, it was determined
that it would be more illustrative to provide a non-exclusive list of
the types of items that are definitively dangerous contraband, such as
a gun, a knife, a cell phone or other wireless communication device, a
laptop computer, any device with global position capabilities, a map,
a camera or an explosive.
This bill would take effect 30 days after it becomes a law.
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