INDIANAPOLIS | Sneaking a cellphone into a state prison and giving it to an inmate is already a felony, but the Indiana House voted 98-0 Tuesday to add a fine of up to $10,000 for the crime.
State Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, is sponsor of House Bill 1256, which now goes to the Senate. He said until the federal government permits cellphone jammers in prisons, a high fine is the best way to send the message that prison visitors shouldn't sneak in phones.
"They're used to harass victims. They're used for drug trafficking. They're used to put hits on rival gang members," Dermody said.
The legislation also makes a prisoner caught with a cellphone eligible for a Class A misdemeanor charge. Currently prisoners with contraband phones are written up for a rules infraction.
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, whose district includes the Indiana State Prison, strongly supported the proposal.
"This is a very unique problem that has to be dealt with aggressively," Pelath said.
The Department of Correction has seized more than 8,000 phones in state prisons since 2006.