If you want to reach out and touch someone while you’re behind bars then you better not get caught as a new state law now makes it a felony for prisoners who are caught with a cellphone or any other telecommunication device in a penal institution.

The law, which went into effect July 1, makes it a Class E Felony (punishable by one to two years in prison for a normal range offender). The legislation, originally presented by Sen. Paul Rose (R-District 32) and Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-District 61), was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee this past April. The law aims to increase public safety and security inside Tennessee prisons.

While introducing a telecommunications device into a correctional facility was included in previous law, possession of a device by an inmate was not a criminal offense. This act amends current Tennessee Code.

“Contraband cellphones are a significant security threat, that makes possible the type of illegal activity that leads to criminal conspiracies between people inside our correctional environment and those on the outside,” said Correction Commissioner Tony Parker. “Inmates use these cellphones to engage in drug operations, sex trafficking, and other organized criminal activities that cause devastating consequences for public safety, and empower these criminals to continue a life of crime. “

Inmates who are found to be in possession of a cell phone may be charged with the Class E Felony which is also punishable by fine. The fine of $3,000 can be imposed upon offenders who repeatedly violate this law.

The Tennessee Department of Corrections, Office of Investigations and Conduct (OIC), say they are dedicated to collecting intelligence, intercepting and prosecuting visitors, volunteers, inmates, co-conspirators, and former employees who introduce or attempt to introduce contraband into TDOC facilities. Between July 2020 and March 2021, the OIC confiscated over 2,500 cell phones from TDOC facilities.

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