The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) is joining forces with a technology company to clamp down on illicit cell phones making their way inside the state’s prisons.

Technology will be used to take down technology by detecting and pinpointing cellphone signals inside prisons.

The project is intended to fulfill Governor Kevin Stitt’s 2019 directive made following several, continued inmate disturbances the turned to violence, according to Justin Wolf, ODOC communications director.

Wolf said the new 60 day project, slated to begin in October, will require all inmates housed at Lexington Assessment and Reception Center to wear ankle monitors.

“Those monitors detect nearby cell phone signals, alerting staff to initiate an immediate response,” Wolf said. “ODOC will implement protocols to ensure the safety of all staff and inmates during the pilot. ODOC’s involvement in this project is at no cost to the state.”

Wolf said that contraband cellphones greatly contribute to illegal activity inside prisons, some of which reaches outside prison walls.

One example comes from last month’s dismantling of a major crime syndicate whose leaders were “calling the shots” while in prison, Wolf said. ODOC agents worked with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics to help shut it down.

“In the past 10 years, ODOC staff have seized more than 57,000 contraband cellphones,” he said.

Six state prisons across the state, including Lawton Correctional Facility, endured violent riots in September 2019. Thirty-six inmates statewide were transported to hospitals for treatment, according to the ODOC.

In following the governor’s executive order made that same month, ODOC has been researching and exploring technologies available to curb cellphone use behind bars.

This latest project is one of several ODOC is considering for future use inside state prisons.

Written by Scott Rains: scott.rains@swoknews.com.

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