Rep. Green Drone Legislation Stands with Michigan Corrections Officers

Bill tightens regulations on delivering contraband to prisons

LANSING — State Rep. Patrick Green (D-Warren) recently introduced House Bill 5588, which would prohibit an individual from using a drone to drop a cell phone or other wireless device into a correctional facility. The bill is Rep. Green’s third bill regarding drone regulation to be referred to the House Committee on Communications and Technology since January 2017, and the chair has demonstrated no commitment to take any further action on the legislation. All four of the bills have received the official support of the Michigan Corrections Officers (MCO).

Green introduced House Bills 4248 and 4249 in conjunction with state Rep. John Chirkun (D-Roseville) in February of 2017, at the beginning of the 2017-2018 legislative session. Just three months later, two packages were successfully dropped over the prison walls at the Ionia State Correctional Facility, delivering cellular phones and other contraband to prisoners.

After several additional accounts of contraband drops, Rep. Green worked together with MCO to introduce new legislation and prompt legislative action in committee. HB 5427 bans the use of drones to deliver other contraband into correctional facilities, and HB 5588 would prohibit a person from using a drone to deliver a cell phone into a correctional facility. Cell phones could enable prisoners to maintain a criminal enterprise outside of prison, or engage in illegal activity inside the prison’s walls—including dealing drugs or organizing assault or murder.

Jeremy Tripp, Director of Political and Governmental Affairs for MCO, emphasized the importance of the legislation by commenting “We appreciate Rep. Green bringing attention to the extremely important topic of drones in prisons. As technology increases, so do the dangers in our correctional institutions. We applaud any effort to tackle these safety and security issues and look forward to working through solutions.”

Rep. Green elaborated about the dangers drones pose to his constituents: “The use of drones can pose a direct threat to you, the public. I worked with my friends in MCO to approach the same policy dilemma in a new way by specifying drones as a prohibited delivery mechanism for contraband, instead of creating a no-fly zone,” Green explained.

Representative Michelle Hoitenga (R-Manton) recently introduced her own legislation regarding drone regulation and held a hearing on the bills in committee shortly after introduction. The legislation, HB 5494-5498, largely reflects recommendations put forward by Governor Snyder’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force.

Rep. Green praised the newly introduced legislation and believes HB 5427 and 5588 compliment the Republican package: “Chair Hoitenga and I have the same goals: prevent individuals from using drones to engage in criminal activity, and support members of law enforcement and corrections. Re-defining the definition of contraband to reflect drone usage updates our state statute while preserving the authority of the Federal Airport Authority.  I look forward to working together with all my House colleagues to pass these bills and keep contraband out of prisoners’ hands and prevent them from committing or directing crimes in and out of prison.”