Defines dangerous contraband to include telecommunications and electronic recording devices.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to expanding the definition of dangerous contraband to include telecommunications and electronic recording devices
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: This bill would amend subdivision 4 of Penal Law ("PL") § 205.00, which contains the definitions of terms that are referenced in PL Article 205, 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 proscribed by virtue of PL § 205.25 ("Promoting prison contraband in the first degree").
JUSTIFICATION: Correctional systems throughout the world are witnessing the proliferation of contraband cell phones and other telecommunications devices. 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 and receive calls, which is dangerous enough in a prison situation. Cell phones have the ability to send and receive text messages, record and transmit photographs 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 dangers of cell phone use within the prisons.
A frightening and very real example of what can happen has in fact happened in Brazil. Cell phones were smuggled into prisons 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. In the united States there are at least ten states that are contemplating enacting or have already adopted statutes making it a crime to 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 contraband. This bill would ensure that such conduct is Punishable as a felony under Penal Law § 205.25. currently, violation of Penal Law § 205.20 ("Promoting prison contraband in the second degree") is punishable as a misdemeanor unless the item introduced or possessed is "dangerous contra band", which is defined in § 205.00(4) as "contraband which is capable of such use as may endanger the safety or security of a detention facility or any person therein" and is punishable as a D felony under 205.25. 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 to 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,
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009-10: S.5865 - Passed Senate
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after enactment.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 3341 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE February 1, 2013 ___________Introduced by Sen. HASSELL-THOMPSON -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes AN ACT to amend the penal law, in relation to expanding the definition of dangerous contraband to include telecommunications and electronic recording devices THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 4 of section 205.00 of the penal law is amended to read as follows: 4. "Dangerous contraband" means contraband which is capable of such use as may endanger the safety or security of a detention facility or any person therein, WHICH SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO, A TELE- COMMUNICATIONS OR ELECTRONIC RECORDING DEVICE. FOR PURPOSES OF THIS SUBDIVISION, A "TELECOMMUNICATIONS OR ELECTRONIC RECORDING DEVICE" MEANS ANY TYPE OF INSTRUMENT, DEVICE, MACHINE OR EQUIPMENT THAT IS DESIGNED TO TRANSMIT AND/OR RECEIVE TELEPHONIC, ELECTRONIC, DIGITAL, CELLULAR OR RADIO SIGNALS OR COMMUNICATIONS OR ANY PART OF SUCH INSTRUMENT, DEVICE, MACHINE OR EQUIPMENT, AS WELL AS ANY TYPE OF INSTRUMENT DESIGNED TO HAVE SOUND OR IMAGE RECORDING ABILITIES AND SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO, A CELLULAR OR DIGITAL PHONE, A PAGER, A TWO-WAY RADIO TEXT MESSAGING OR MODEM DEVICE (INCLUDING MODEM EQUIPMENT DEVICES), A CAMERA, A VIDEO RECORDER AND TAPE OR DIGITAL RECORDING DEVICES, OR ANY OTHER DEVICE THAT HAS SAID CAPABILITIES. S 2. This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after it shall have become a law.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD06421-01-3