Oklahoma City, Okla. (Sept. 27, 2019) — Governor Kevin Stitt announced today a new executive order to address the crises of contraband cellphones in state prisons across Oklahoma. Executive Order (EO) 2019-41 directs the Secretary of Public Safety, the Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC) to research and implement technology solutions in order to eliminate the public safety threat of contraband cellphones in Oklahoma prisons and correctional facilities.
“Contraband cellphones in our state prisons have become a serious public safety concern in Oklahoma,” said Governor Stitt. “This is a technology issue that must be answered with a technology solution in order to efficiently and effectively improve safety for our inmates, Department of Correction employees and citizens of Oklahoma. Through EO 2019-41, we are working to address the contraband cellphone crises in order to minimize criminal activity in and out of our prisons.”
“Contraband cellphones are our number-one security threat,” Interim ODOC Director Scott Crow said. “I applaud Governor Stitt, his administration and lawmakers for their leadership and understanding of this critical problem. While our staff seize thousands every year, contraband cellphones cry out for a technological solution. With this order, we will proceed with urgency, researching the most effective and efficient methods to fight this dangerous problem.”
“Working behind the wire is a dangerous job and contraband cellphones add even more to that threat for correctional officers,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R -Oklahoma City. “Contraband cellphones also threaten the safety and wellbeing of inmates by allowing the planning of dangerous activity within prison walls. I appreciate the Governor’s move to pursue ways that the state can crack down on the proliferation of contraband cellphones in state prisons.”
On Saturday, September 14, 2019, an estimated 150 to 200 inmates in an Oklahoma prison initiated acts of violence led by inmate gang leaders and gang members, which spread to five additional Oklahoma prisons during the afternoon of Sunday, September 15, 2019. The premeditated acts of violence were facilitated by communication between inmates using contraband cellphones and resulted in all prisons across the state being placed on lockdown.
The new Executive Order highlights that the increase in contraband cellphones in Oklahoma prisons has resulted in a serious and on-going public safety threat, as the smuggled devices are used to promote criminal activity in and out of prisons.
EO 2019-41 directs the secretaries and DOC to explore all possible technology solutions, including geo-location systems, cellphone jammers, micro cellphone jammers, controlled access systems and hybrid systems, in order to abate the safety concern. EO 2019-41 also directs the secretaries and DOC to work with Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and Federal agencies to determine what actions are being taken by the Federal government in Federal correctional facilities to eliminate the contraband cellphone crises and research the liability of cellphone service companies that provide cellphone service to or for contraband cellphones and develop a plan to hold those companies accountable.
Once the most cost-effective solutions have been identified, the secretaries and DOC are asked to actively seek and obtain all legal authorizations required for the use of any technologies they plan to utilize and implement the solutions in the facilities that the DOC has identified as areas of concern.