TITLE OF BILL:
to amend the penal law, in relation to expanding the definition of
dangerous contraband to include telecommunications and electronic
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
This bill would amend subdivision 4 of the Penal Law section 205.00
relating to offenses committed when someone is in custody. It would
add "telecommunications or electronic recording device" to the
existing definition of "dangerous contraband", and would be
applicable to a number of devices that would be banned by "Promoting
prison contraband in the first degree."
REASONS FOR SUPPORT:
Correctional systems throughout the world are witnessing the
proliferation of contraband cell phones and other telecommunications
While these devices are getting smaller in size, the number of
features that they have are ever-expanding. Today's cell phone
capabilities go well beyond allowing a user to make a call, which is
dangerous enough in a prison situation. Cell phones have the ability
to send and receive text messages, record and transmit photo and
video, all of which can have catastrophic consequences within a
prison setting. Inmates can circumvent the safeguards and controls
imposed on their communications, including monitoring of call content
or call numbers, call blocking, and prohibitions against all calls
where they pose a threat to safety and security. With such unlimited
access, inmates can organize escapes by alerting outside individuals
to prisoners' movements, or sending images of secure areas.
Additionally, inmates may use cell phones to harass witnesses and
victims, interfere with juries, and maintain outside illegal
activity. Compounding the problem, the FCC prohibits the common
methods of interfering or blocking, which would help to reduce the
effectiveness of cell phones within the prisons.
A frightening and very real example of what can occur has happened in
Brazil Cell phones were smuggled into the prison and used to organize
riots at 29 prisons. The result: 15 people were killed and 8,000
guards and relatives were held hostage. In Ontario, an inmate was
charged with running a drug ring from prison. Britain, Thailand,
India, and Japan have all reported incidents of cell phones being
discovered in their prisons. And even in New York City, 25
telecommunication devices have been found in Department of Correction
facilities since 2005.
In the United States there are at least ten states that are
contemplating enacting or have already adopted statutes making it a
possess or introduce electronic devices into their detention facilities:
Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Ohio,
Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois.
It is critical to public safety that all possible measures are
advanced to deter the introduction and possession of this type of
This bill would ensure that such conduct is punishable as a felony.
Currently, Penal Article 205 (promoting Prison Contraband) is a
misdemeanor unless the item introduced or possessed is "dangerous
contraband", which is defined as "contraband which is capable of such
use as may endanger the safety or security of a detention facility or
any person therein" and punishable as a D felony. While it is beyond
debate that telecommunications devices and electronic recording
devices fit within that definition, it is important to eliminate any
ambiguity in connection with the interpretation of the statute. This
proposal sends an important message to the public and the inmate
population that promoting such contraband will not be tolerated and
will be punishable as a felony.
Accordingly, the Mayor urges the earliest possible favorable
consideration of this proposal by the Legislature.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
S.4330 of 2007
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
ultimately result from more effective efforts to eliminate unneeded
regulatory mandates on businesses and local governments in the state.
15th day after it shall have become law.