Jamming of Prison Phones

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Recently, the use of banned cell phones in prisons has been rapidly increasing in prisons. It was observed that in California in 2008, the number of contraband cell phones that were seized were 2811 compared to 261 in 2006, showing a tenfold increase in just two years. Similar increases have occurred in other states. For instance in Maryland it was noted that in 2008 the number of seized cell phones was 1200, which increased to 1700 in 2009, causing a lot of concern and worry among authorities responsible for maintaining security at correctional institutions all over the country.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, NTIA, sought to find a solution to this problem and installed a test jamming system in Cumberland’s Federal Prison in February 2010. On 12th May, 2010, the results of the test jamming system were observed; however, the results of this test apply only to the Cumberland prison and cannot be generalized or applied to other correctional institutions.

A document was issued in this regard by NTIA and it made a request to the general public asking for their opinions and views regarding the banned use of cell phones by inmates. According to the notice issued, it stated that the NTIA was interested in obtaining information related to the technical solutions for stopping contraband cell phone use in jail. NTIA was given the job of developing such a device and an approach with the help of the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the BOP. The National Institute of Justice, NIJ, was also asked to cooperate with the NTIA and look into technologies, such as wireless jamming. Congress asked the NTIA to investigate with these other agencies about the feasibility of detection and other technologies in order to enforce law and order among inmates of prisons, both federal and state. The NTIA asked for information from the public regarding specific technologies that could be used for preventing the use of contraband cell phones by inmates in prison. The technology would have to be one that would not interfere with the functioning of other commercial wireless services or would not hinder public services, including access to 911 and so on.

Any comments on the aforementioned notice sent before June 11, 2010 can be viewed on the NTIA website at www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/contrabandcellphones?ref=its

The NTIA was seeking comments on the issues mentioned below:

  •  Locating banned cell phones
  • Technical issues
  • Devices and frequency bands
  • Protection of 911 calls and allowing only authorized users
  • Issues relating to technology
  • Cost considerations
  • Regulatory or legal issues
  • Interference to other radio services



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Jamming of Prison Phones

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