A bipartisan US Congress voted to ban the use of a popular printer in prisons, citing safety concerns over the potential for the devices to make people sick and damage property.
The legislation passed Tuesday by a vote of 218-189 in the House and 219-204 in the Senate.
The measure, introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Coons, D/Del., would ban the importation of “any new or modified industrial-sized or small portable laser printer, scanner, inkjet printer, or similar device that is designed or intended to produce a visible ink or color film.”
The move follows an October report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed that about 5 million people in the US are infected with a strain of the coronavirus that is causing respiratory problems.
The bill also prohibits any new or used device that uses more than 50 millimeters of print volume.
It would prohibit any device that contains a print that has a print size larger than 25 millimeters.
It would also ban any device using more than 25 mm of ink on the printer’s surface and any device for the printing of a printed image.
Rep. Cohen said that the use or manufacture of any new device in a prison would put the health of prisoners and staff at risk, and that he would be voting against the legislation.
“There are other tools available to us, but this is the one that has the potential to be a real danger to the health and safety of our prisoners,” Cohen said in a statement.
“The FDA is working on a recommendation on how to limit the use, use in prisons and how to ensure the safety of prisoners.”
Cohen’s bill, which is sponsored by Rep Tim Walz, D–Minn., would also prohibit any new “reusable” or “extended-range” devices, including inkjet printers.
The FDA’s Office of Commercialization has already said that it is concerned about the use and proliferation of printers in jails and prisons.
The agency said in November that the agency had found that inkjet ink cartridges used in cell phone cameras, printers and other devices could produce “viral-like” particles that can cause respiratory illnesses in some inmates.