A new initiative to ban drones near prisons has been introduced in the Illinois Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tim Bivins, seeks to prevent drones from flying over prison yards and dropping packages containing drugs, pornography, razorblades and other contraband, which has happened in other states.
“It’s an initiative of the correction in Illinois. It is (a) preventative bill and what the Department has seen in other states is that they have had some issues with people using drones to drop in cell phones, or even a bigger concern is weapons and also drugs,” Bivins said.
In August, a violent fight broke out in an Ohio prison when a package containing tobacco, heroin and marijuana was dropped over the prison wall.
One of the leading concerns associated with the increased popularity of drones is that inmates will get dangerous materials and cellphones delivered to them. The bill proposes a punishment of an additional year added to an inmate’s sentence if they are caught smuggling in banned goods.
The bill would also charge individuals who intentionally fly drones over prisons with a misdemeanor.
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There are federal regulations governing the use of drones. Anyone seeking to fly a drone must have the drone registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.
But with growing concern of privacy and safety violations, a number of state legislators are considering additional restrictions.
“This bill is designed to keep up with the technology that keeps coming at us every year and we think this will be a deterrent and hopefully prevent an incident here in Illinois,” Bivins said.
Michigan and Wisconsin have also proposed legislation similar to Bivins’.
In November, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting people from flying drones over people, personal property or within 5 miles of an airport. Nicole Wilson, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said the department has not experienced contraband being introduced to its properties by drone, but that they are taking a proactive approach to ensure such breaches do not occur. Senate Bill 2344, has been assigned to the Criminal Law Committee and is expected to be brought up in the coming weeks.