Tag Archives: contraband cell phone

Solution Overview

meshDETECT is a new solution to the problem of contraband cell phones in prison that also provides enhanced telephone access to detainees and their families.

The very first payphone was installed in a Hartford, Connecticut bank in 1889; the first payphone in a jail was probably installed not too long after. Ironically, this same device, admittedly with very sophisticated back end controls, is still being used in prisons and jails around the world 125 years later; yet when is the last time you personally used a payphone? The reason for this? Cell phones.

It is well documented that contraband cell phones are a significant issue in prisons and jails across the county, and indeed the world. Over 15,000 were confiscated in California alone in 2012. In fact, Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens has stated that, “Illegal cell-phone use in Georgia prisons has developed to “epidemic” proportions and is now the system’s greatest safety threat.”

There is no doubt that the use of unrestricted cell phones in prison is a serious security risk in that some of the use is for criminal activity, however it has been shown that the vast majority of contraband cell phone use is by detainees seeking more frequent and affordable interaction with family and loved ones. Interaction that is now severely restricted by the limited number and shared use of prison payphones.

We believe that contraband cell phones are a problem of both supply and demand. Due to the demand for cell phones in prison, there is an active and highly lucrative pipeline of supply. Most prison administrations have focused on restricting the supply of contraband cell phones through detection, jamming and search. However, like the problem of drug smuggling, without addressing the demand for contraband, the problem will never be solved.

We have developed a solution, called meshDETECT, which helps to reduce the demand for contraband cell phones by siphoning off the legitimate desire for more frequent telephone access between detainees and their loved ones. meshDETECT is a secure prison cell phone solution that gives detainees highly customized cell phones with all the security and control features of prison payphones. This allows those detainees whose only desire is for legitimate, non-criminal contact with family to use wireless technology safely and securely.

By siphoning off and co-opting this non-criminal wireless usage, we significantly reduce the overall demand for contraband cell phones and therefore the profitability for those smuggling these devices. Less financial reward for cell phone smugglers changes the risk/reward equation and makes it much less appealing given the high personal and professional risk for those caught smuggling.

In addition to reducing the demand for, and therefore the supply of, contraband cell phones, enhanced access to telecommunications services has the proven, significant, additional benefits of reducing recidivism, improving detainee behavior and increasing officer safety.

Eventually all technology trends breach the prison walls. In fact, the Department of Justice recently mandated that Federal Bureau of Prison Halfway House detainees be given controlled access to cell phones to facilitate communication with potential employers and family. With meshDETECT, all deserving detainees can benefit from wireless technology, safely and securely.

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Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs

Cell-phones-at-nightHere is the latest summary of recent news articles regarding contraband cell phones in prisons around the world. I call these periodic round up of news items, “Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs” because this is essentially what smuggled mobile phones in jails have become – a substitute for the current wall mounted prison payphones.

Convicted Killer Among Group of Prisoners Given Permission to Buy Mobile Phone:
A convicted killer is among a group of prisoners at an open jail given permission to buy a mobile phone.

Ten inmates at Loughan House jail in Blacklion, Co Cavan, were allowed to buy a handset late last week. And among the first to get their hands on the phones was convicted killer Nigel Kenny. He and the nine other inmates were told by Governor William Reilly that they could buy the Samsung handsets with a charger and €5 credit for €25 on Friday.

The programme is expected to be rolled out to all prisoners at the open jail over the coming weeks. Mobile phones have already been given to inmates at Shelton Abbey open prison in Co Wicklow… (source)

Romania to Implement Mobile Signal Jammers in Prisons to Curb Phone Fraud by Inmates:
Romania plans to implement a system that will jam mobile phone reception in prisons starting 2015, which should limit the number and use of mobile phones in prisons, but also corruption among prison employees.

The unauthorized use of mobile phones by inmates was central to many fraud cases where prisoners called gullible individuals and asked for money by giving them fake information. One of the most common schemed used was for inmates to call people and pretend they were lawyers, working with a family member who was taken by the Police and who needed money to be released, convincing families to send them over the money… (source)

Smuggled Cellphones Creating Havoc in Prisons: They’re hidden in babies’ diapers, ramen noodle soup packages, footballs, soda cans and even body cavities.

Not drugs or weapons, but cellphones. They’re becoming a growing problem in prisons across America as they are used to make threats, plan escapes and for inmates to continue to make money from illegal activity even while behind bars.

“You can pick states all across the country and you’ll see everything from hits being ordered on individuals to criminal enterprises being run from inside institutions with cellphones,” said Michael Crews, head of Florida’s Department of Corrections.

When two murderers serving life sentences escaped from Florida Panhandle prison last fall, a search of their cells turned up a cellphone used to help plan the getaway, drawing attention to the burgeoning problem. It was just one of 4,200 cellphones confiscated by prison officials last year, or 11 per day…(source)

Blocking Cell Phone Calls from Prisons: Good Idea, Dumb Policy: Honduras has embarked on a very stupid program of forcing its cell phone providers to block calls from within the 23 prisons in Honduras. It’s not that the idea is necessarily bad. But the implementation they chose is exceptionally stupid. The Honduran Congress under Porfirio Lobo passed a bill that requires cell phone providers to block any calls from prisons. This is not something that is done easily in a standard cell phone base station and requires special programming (and probably required the purchase of that capability from the base station provider).

The idiocy comes from the fact that the law specifies that for each prison location, no cell phone be able to complete a call, text message, or Internet connection within a one kilometer circle around the prison. The Honduran Congress definitely shouldn’t have specified a technical solution to what recognizably is a problem for their desired management of the prison population. But they did, and they chose the worst possible solution for the Honduran populace that lives near the prisons.

It probably bears emphasis that in Honduras, prisons are often located in densely populated areas surrounded by housing. The residents of these cities and towns living within one kilometer of the prisons targeted are suffering because their cell phones don’t work, either. That means no emergency service calls for medical help, no fire protection, no calling the police to report a crime in progress… (source)

‘Dead’ Mobiles Spark Stir: Residents in Kalapet, Chinna Kalapet and Kanagachettikulam resorted to road blockades in four places on the East Coast Road on Monday, to protest the disconnection of cell phone towers in the vicinity of Puducherry Central prison at Kalapet. The traffic on the route was crippled for more than two hours.

The district magistrate had disconnected the towers, to stave off the use of cell phones by prison inmates, to perpetrate crimes, posing a great deal of inconvenience to the residents. However, the intervention by Revenue and Police led to the withdrawal of the road blockade.

The District Magistrate had initiated the action after the Governor himself visited the jail and raised safety issues. Taking advantage of the proximity of mobile towers, the jammers inside the central jail were rendered ineffective and the inmates of the jail made calls at ease… (source)

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Managed Access Jamming Too Expensive Says MoJ, Investigates Demand For Contraband Cell Phones

managed-access-too-expensiveThe United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice has determined that managed access jamming of contraband cell phones is too expensive and has commissioned “research to explore the use and demand for illicit mobile phones amongst the prison population” in order to facilitate the “development of a new mobile phone strategy to:


(i) manage prisoner communications,

(ii) reduce and control criminal activities and

(iii) reduce expenditure on equipment and the need for time-consuming searches.”

The aim of the study is:

1. To further the understanding of what drives the demand for illicit mobile phones by prisoners; and

2. To help identify potential effective ways of preventing their usage (excluding prohibitively expensive solutions such as mobile phone blockers).

To guide the analysis, the key research questions to be explored are:

• What drives the demand for mobile phones within prisons? How much is for maintaining family conduct and how much is for other more criminal purposes (including criminal networks, gangs, terrorism)?

• Are certain types of prisoners more likely to want a mobile phone and so drive demand in particular establishments?

• Which non-technical factors could be most effective (and cost effective) in reducing both the supply and demand for mobile phones in prison (including ways of counteracting the prison economy that surrounds the use of mobile phones)?

Maryland as an example

Let’s look at Maryland as an example of the managed access cost concerns prisons around the world must wrestle with when considering jamming technology. Last year, the Maryland State legislature formed a Special Joint Commission on Public Safety and Security in State and Local Correctional Facilities. Formed in response to the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center, where a joint federal-state investigation revealed a virtual takeover of the facility by violent inmate gang members and corrupt correctional officers, the commission recently released its recommendations.

Included in this report is the recommendation is to expand the funding for managed access jammers at six additional prison facilities beyond the two sites (MTC and BCDC) where it has already been installed. Per the report, the jamming costs for these two existing sites are $2 million annually at MTC and $3.9 million annually at BCDC.

According to the report, “The system appears to be very effective, as evidenced by the sight of inmates continuously lined up at payphones.” That’s some fact-based decision making right there!

If the cell phones in the prison were predominately used to plan crimes by avoiding the monitoring/recording of calls at the prison payphones (the reasons given to justify the multi-million dollar annual expenditures), why would prison payphone demand increase once the contraband mobile phones were being jammed? Perhaps because the predominant use of the now blocked mobile phones is not to run gangs, but rather to speak to loved ones?

We have long advocated the strategy of looking at the problem of contraband cell phones as a problem of supply AND demand. We believe however that the problem of demand for smuggled mobile phones in jail goes beyond long-term offenders looking to continue their drug or crime operations, witness intimidation and the avoidance of high call prices.

Contraband cell phone demand is also driven by a desire for more frequent family communication and more privacy (not secrecy) and as such, any comprehensive solution should address both sides of the equation – supply and demand.

Providing prisoners with a controlled and secure prison cell phone, such as the meshDETECT solution, will siphon off the predominant use of the contraband phones – communication with loved ones. Combined with a measured and cost effective supply-side strategy, this demand-side approach will lower the value of the contraband wireless phones and therefore the money that can be made smuggling them into prison, eliminate wireless airtime as prison currency and reduce recidivism by enhancing family connections.

The challenges prison budgets face in today’s economic environment necessitate such a comprehensive approach. We are pleased to see that, in Britain at least, this strategy is being seriously considered.

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Why The Prison Payphone Industry Is Ripe For Disruptive Innovation

meshDETECT-disruptive-innovationA disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in a new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

Characteristics of a Disruptive Innovation:

  • Its performance attributes meet the unfulfilled needs of an emerging market’s customers. These same attributes are not initially valued by the mainstream market, which instead value different performance attributes and initially see the innovation as substandard.
  • Emerging market adoption enables the innovation to increase its performance and to begin overlapping with the performance expectations of the mainstream market.
  • Awareness of the innovation increases as the innovation develops, influencing change in the mainstream market’s perception of what it values.
  • The change in the mainstream market’s perception of what it values enables the innovation to disrupt and replace the existing offerings in the mainstream market.

In the prison payphone industry, it is clear that the high call prices and low availability of the traditional wall phones in prisons and jails are not meeting the communication desires of detainees and their families. As a result, the demand for contraband cell phones has soared. Prison administrators, and the prison payphone companies themselves, have focused on strategies to reduce the supply of smuggled mobile phones through the deployment of expensive managed access systems, cell phone detection technologies and specially trained K9s.

However, none of these strategies address the fundamental demand (and associated corruption of guards and staff supplying the phones) of detainees seeking lower cost and more frequent access to telephone services.

In mature industries, such as the prison payphone industry, the risk for incumbents is the danger of dematuring. Dematuring happens when a stable industry with known competitors begins to be dynamic and new again.  If an industry is dematuring, the chances of getting hit with a disruptive innovation are much greater and  established players lose their hegemony while value in the industry can move to entirely new players or parts of the value chain.

An industry is in danger of dematuring if two or more of the following four things happen simultaneously:

  1. customer’s core requirements change;
  2. the core technologies used to produce the product or service change;
  3. the number of large competitors interested in the same market is on the rise;
  4. significant regulation, deregulation, or re-regulation is coming down the pike.

In the prison payphone industry we see commissary companies such as Keefe entering the market as well as new initiatives by the FCC and state regulatory commissions to lower the high cost of prison phone calls.

We are also seeing the adoption of mobility technologies such as RFID, GPS and handheld devices. The very first payphone was installed in a bank in 1889 (and probably in a jail not too long after). Yet the inmate communications service providers such as Global Tel*Link and Securus Technologies are still using this basic device (admittedly with very sophisticated back-end controls) over 120 years later!

There is no denying the pervasive and rapid adoption of wireless technologies in the the consumer market has begun to seep into prisons and jails. Add to this the desire of prison administrators to deploy on-line forms, books, MP3 players and commissary access and one quickly comes to the realization that voice communications can be an important component of this move to individualized, utilitarian and portable access devices to educate, rehabilitate and manage detainees.

With meshDETECT, we are leading the charge to disrupt the prison payphone industry by providing a secure prison cell phone solution that provides the controls and security required by prison administrators while offering enhanced communications opportunities to detainees and their families thereby reducing recidivism and the demand for contraband cell phones.


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FCC Takes Up Technology Solutions To Contraband Cell Phones

FCC-contraband-cell-phonesThe FCC today issued FCC 13-58, Contraband Wireless Device Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), to “remove barriers to the deployment and viability of existing and future technologies used to combat contraband wireless devices.” The NPRM discusses current technologies such as managed access, detection, jamming and wireless carrier service termination of identified contraband cell phones.

Below are excerpts from the rulemaking document:

Inmate use of contraband wireless devices has grown within the federal and state prison systems parallel to the growth of wireless device use by the general public. In federal institutions and prison camps, GAO reports that the number of cell phones confiscated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) grew from 1,774 in 2008 to 3,684 in 2010. While not all states track or report data on the use of contraband wireless devices, the data that has been reported demonstrates significant growth. For example, California correctional officers seized approximately 261 cell phones in 2006; by 2011, correctional officers discovered more than 15,000 contraband wireless devices. Further, a test of an interdiction technology in two California State prisons detected more than 25,000 unauthorized communication attempts over an 11 day period in 2011. A similar interdiction system permanently installed in a Mississippi correctional facility reportedly blocked 325,000 communications attempts in the first month of operation, and as of February 2012, had blocked more than 2 million communications attempts.

In this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice), we take steps to facilitate the development of multiple technological solutions to combat the use of contraband wireless devices in correctional facilities nationwide. Prisoners’ use of contraband wireless devices to engage in criminal activity is a serious threat to the safety of prison employees, other prisoners, and the general public. Through this Notice, we seek to remove barriers to the deployment and viability of existing and future technologies used to combat contraband wireless devices. In this Notice, “contraband wireless device” refers to any wireless device, including the physical hardware or part of a device – such as a subscriber identification module (SIM) – that is used within a correctional facility without authorization by the correctional authority. We use the phrase “correctional facility” to refer to any facility operated or overseen by federal, state, or local authorities that houses or holds prisoners for any period of time.

We propose a series of modifications to the Commission’s rules to facilitate spectrum lease agreements between wireless providers and providers or operators of managed access systems used to combat contraband wireless devices. Those proposed modifications are:

  • Revising the Commission’s rules to immediately process de facto lease agreements or spectrum manager lease agreements for spectrum used exclusively in managed access systems in correctional facilities, and streamlining other aspects of the lease application or notification review process for those managed access systems in correctional facilities.
  • Forbearing, to the extent necessary, from the individualized application review and public notice requirements of Sections 308, 309, and 310(d) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act), for qualifying managed access leases.
  • Establishing a presumption that managed access operators provide a private mobile radio service (PMRS), streamlining the process for seeking Special Temporary Authority (STA) to operate a managed access system, and seeking comment on whether to establish a requirement that managed access providers provide notice to nearby households and businesses prior to activation of a managed access system.

We also propose to require wireless providers to terminate service, if technically feasible, to a contraband wireless device if an authorized correctional facility official notifies the wireless provider of the presence of the contraband wireless device within the correctional facility. We seek comment on the elements of the proposed notification and termination process, including who should be authorized to transmit a termination notification to the wireless provider, the form of such termination notice, and any safeguards necessary to ensure that service to legitimate wireless devices is not inadvertently terminated. We seek comment on the implication of our proposals on detection and managed access system operators’ compliance with or liability under Section 705 of the Act and federal law governing the use of pen registers or trap and trace devices. Finally, while we are limiting our proposals to managed access and detection solutions, we nevertheless invite comment on other technological approaches for addressing the problem of contraband wireless device usage in correctional facilities.

Further on in the document, it discusses managed access systems and some of the current deployments in state prison systems:

Managed access systems are micro-cellular, private networks that analyze transmissions to and from wireless devices to determine whether the device is authorized or unauthorized for purposes of accessing public carrier networks. Managed access systems utilize base stations that are optimized to capture all voice, text, and data communications within the system coverage area, which would be a correctional facility in the instant case. When a wireless device attempts to connect to the network from within the coverage area of the managed access system, the system cross-checks the identifying information of the device against a database that lists wireless devices authorized to operate in the coverage area. Authorized devices are allowed to communicate normally (i.e., transmit and receive voice, text, and data) with the commercial wireless network, while transmissions to or from unauthorized devices are terminated. The managed access system may also provide an alert to the user notifying the user that the device is unauthorized. The systems provide operational flexibility to the correctional facility administrators by allowing them to disable devices without having to physically remove them.

A correctional facility or third party at a correctional facility may operate a managed access system if authorized by the Commission. This authorization has to date involved agreements with the wireless providers serving the geographic area including the correctional facility and lease applications approved by the Commission. A number of deployments and trials have been conducted or are ongoing, as listed below.

  • California The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has conducted trials of managed access systems at two state prisons. Based on the results of the trials, the California Technology Agency issued an Invitation for Bids for a prime contractor to provide a pay telephone system for inmates and wards and a managed access systems in correctional facilities across the state. The CDCR awarded the contract in April 2012 to Global Tel*Link (GTL), and its managed access operator has received experimental authorization to test a managed access system in nine facilities.
  • Maryland The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) conducted an in-depth analysis of contraband cell phone interdiction technologies in 2009. Maryland DPSCS conducted trials of various non-jamming technologies at a decommissioned correctional facility in Jessup, Maryland, and a real-world study of non-jamming technologies in three commissioned correctional facilities. Maryland DPSCS subsequently issued a Request for Proposals for the installation of managed access and detection systems in all of its prisons, and granted a contract to Tecore Networks (Tecore) to install a managed access system in the Metropolitan Transition Center in Baltimore City, Maryland.
  • Mississippi In 2010, the Mississippi Department of Corrections deployed a managed access system at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, a maximum security prison in Parchman, Mississippi. In its first month of operation, the system blocked a total of 325,000 call and message attempts, and has prevented more than 2 million calls and text messages through February 2012.
  • South Carolina South Carolina has conducted trials of a managed access system at its Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, South Carolina. The Commission has approved several spectrum leases sought by ShawnTech Communications (ShawnTech) for a permanent installation at the Lieber Correctional Institution, and the system is operational.
  • Texas The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced in late 2012 that it would install managed access systems in two state correctional facilities. The Commission has approved a number of spectrum leases for ShawnTech for the managed access installations.
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Phones In Cells For Inmates Recommended By Prison Chief

phones-in-prison-cellsHere is an interesting article endorsing the deployment and use of phones in prison cells to increase prisoner family contact and reduce recidivism. The issue of public perception of such a strategy is acknowledged, but enhancing access to telecommunication services will reduce the value of contraband cell phones and improve officer safety in prisons and jails. The strategy can easily be accomplished with no upfront cost through the deployment of the meshDETECT secure prison cell phone solution.

Telephones and not just televisions should be allowed in prisoners’ cells, the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service has suggested.

Colin McConnell said helping people keep in touch with their families could help prevent reoffending.

He raised the idea with MSPs on Holyrood’s Justice Committee.

“I know that might stick in the craw of certain members of the public and maybe some members sitting round the table here,” Mr McConnell admitted.

“It seems to me you get people to behave normally if you treat them normally; you try and recreate normality.

“One of the things that’s generally accepted helps towards reducing reoffending is relationships and family contact.

Television curfew

“Anything reasonably and safely we can do to help sustain and develop family contact, we should give it a go.”

Mr McConnell admitted, in mentioning phones in cells, he was being “a wee bit reformist”.

The SPS chief executive said he is a “fan of TVs in cells” for prisoners, with “loads of positives that come from that”.

Labour MSP Graeme Pearson, a former director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, asked Mr McConnell if a 01:00 television curfew in operation at Low Moss Prison in Bishopbriggs should be extended to all prisoners.

The SPS chief executive replied that television could be a “window on the world”.

“It’s about keeping informed about what’s going on and actually it’s a displacement activity as well,” he said.

Encouraged to sleep

“If it stops somebody thinking horrible thoughts about themselves or others and encourages discourse about Coronation Street, the news or whatever it might be, I think there’s loads of positives that come from that.

“I know it’s one of those issues that polarises people, but I think there’s a place for it. Whether it should have a curfew, I think there are pros and cons.

“I’d much rather treat people with the respect and decency in the sense of ‘please use it sensibly’ and those that don’t, we might have to curtail it.”

Mr Pearson, the South of Scotland MSP, had suggested that, having visited the Bishopbriggs facility, the curfew appeared to have a “very positive effect on the prison” because it encourages prisoners to go to sleep, “which means, in the morning, they are more engaged and ready to go out and do something”.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said both televisions and phones in cells should come “with the caveat that presumably it’s monitored what they are watching and obviously phone calls, so people don’t think they are in some kind of Marriot Hotel instead of in prison”.


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Prison Managed Access System Jammer Deployments

managed-access-jammer-trialsSince the first high profile prison managed access system (MAS) jammer deployment to thwart contraband cell phones at the MDOC facility in Parchman, MS., state departments of correction around the country have been evaluating the technology for potential deployment.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced a statewide deployment of cell phone jammers, despite high profile concerns about their effectiveness. And recently, Texas and Maryland moved to test the technology in their prison facilities.

Given these high profile initiatives and the high cost of the systems, it is not surprising that new MAS providers have moved into the market to challenge the incumbent, Tecore. A review of recent FCC Experimental Licensing System applications show the following firms deploying and testing managed access jamming systems in state prisons around the country:

Update (3/28/13): Screened Images has applied for FCC Experimental Licensing at:

  • Avenal (KINGS), CA (0276-EX-ST-2013)
  • Avenal (KINGS), CA (0178-EX-PL-2013)
  • Leakesville, MS (0220-EX-ST-2013)

Update (2/9/13): Screened Images has applied for FCC Experimental Licensing at:

  • California Corrections Center (0107-EX-ST-2013)
  • High Desert State Prison (0108-EX-ST-2013)
  • Pelican Bay State Prison (0109-EX-ST-2013)
  • California Health Care Facility (0112-EX-ST-2013)

Update (2/4/13): Screened Images has applied for FCC Experimental Licensing at:

  • Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) located at 5100 OByrnes Ferry Rd, Jamestown, CA 95327 (0105-EX-ST-2013)
  • Mule Creek State Prison (MCSP) located at 4001 Highway 104 Ione, CA 95640 (0041-EX-ST-2013)



Application Data


Screened Images, Inc.

South Mississippi Correctional
Institution –
Leaksville, MS




Owned by Joseph Noonan, founder of Corrections.com & BINJ

Screened Images, Inc.

Avenal State Prison (ASP)
located at 1 Kings Way
Avenal, CA




Screened Images, Inc.

Ironwood State Prison (ISP) located at 19005 Wileys Well Road Blythe, CA



Screened Images, Inc.

Chuckawalla Valley State
Prison, 19025 Wileys Well Rd. Blythe,



Screened Images, Inc.

Centinela State Prison, 2302
Brown Road Imperial, CA



Screened Images, Inc.

Calipatria State Prison (?)



App has been requested to be made confidential. The
“why STA is necessary” field says that the demonstration is to take
place at Ironwood State Prison

(ISP) located at the Avenal State Prison (ASP) located at 1 Kings WayAvenal,
CA 93204
yet the

transmitter location is for Calipatria, CA

Blind Tiger Communications, Inc.

Phillips State Prison, 2989 West Rock Quarry RdBuford, Georgia




Owned by the founder
of mobile-soap.com

 We contacted an employee of Blind Tiger Communications who shared with us that the system is working as required, is cost effective compared to the competition, and has the State of Georgia (Govenor’s Office) extremely pleased. Efforts to reach Joseph Noonan for comment were unsuccessful.


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Contraband Cell Phone Supply & Demand

The American Correction Association has an article on its website summarizing the recent meeting of the newly-formed No Cells in Cells Coalition on Oct. 23, 2012, at the ACA headquarters to discuss the problem of contraband cell phones smuggled into prisons. Attendees included representatives from the Delaware Department of Corrections, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Virginia Department of Corrections, the American Jail Association, the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the National Sheriff’s Association, cell phone companies Sprint and ATT, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and others.

According to the article, the attendees discussed the types of offenders most likely to attempt to smuggle phones. “Members concluded that while phones are more likely to be smuggled by long-term offenders looking to continue their drug or crime operations, witness intimidation within pretrial facilities is common as well. Kristy Dyroff, director of communications for the National Organization for Victim Assistance, commented that witness intimidation through use of cell phones in pretrial facilities is most common in domestic violence cases.

Several methods currently used to combat the issue of contraband cell phones were discussed throughout the meeting, including:

• Dogs trained to sniff out cell phone parts;
• Technologies such as managed access;
• Thorough searches and seizures by correctional staff;
• Metal detectors; and
• Observation and profiling to determine which offenders are most likely to
smuggle phones.

Though each method has its benefits and downsides, according to Judi Garrett, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, no single method has been proven significantly more effective than the others.”

We fully support the initiatives recommended by this coalition. Yet what is interesting about this list is that all the measures being contemplated are supply side solutions. There seems to be no thinking on how to address the demand side of this issue however…

Interestingly, another recent blog posting, this one from Marcus Spectrum Solutions, discusses the recent decision by the FCC to take up the Wright Petition on high prison long distance rates and the impact these rates have had on driving the demand for contraband cell phones. The title of the post is “Telecom Policy Lessons from the War on Drugs.”

In the article, the author states, “A key lesson from the War on Drugs is that one must work both the “demand side” and “supply side” of these intractable problems to make progress. Short of having a total police state one just can not eliminate antisocial products that are in high demand.”

Clearly, there is nothing closer to a pure police state than a federal or state correctional facility, yet cell phones remain a significant problem in these facilities. The formation of the No Cells in Cells Coalition is proof of the challenge and size of this issue. And, as the author states, the reduction of the high long distance (interstate) rates common in many states may address some of the demand for contraband cell phones.

We believe however that the problem of demand for smuggled mobile phones in jail goes beyond long-term offenders looking to continue their drug or crime operations, witness intimidation and the avoidance of high LD rates. The demand is also driven by a desire for more communication and more privacy (not secrecy) and as such, any comprehensive solution should address both sides of the equation – supply and demand.

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Telephones Installed Inside Prison Cells

In May of 2011 we wrote about a British prison that solved the problem of contraband cell phones by installing landline telephones in each of the cells of a jail. The results were fewer smuggled phones, less violence, and even fewer failed drug tests! Now another prison in the U.K is taking the same approach.

As the authorities responsible for the prison state, the installation of a phone in each prison cell “may reduce the number of mobile phones being smuggled into prisons.” Additionally, the greater use of IT could transform prison education, resettlement and family contact.

For existing jails and prisons where the installation of a hard wired wall phone is impractical due to cost and infrastructure limitations, a secure prison cell phone solution such as meshDETECT will achieve the same results with no capital outlays.

Prisoners have been given telephones inside their cells despite ministers promising to crack down on perks behind bars.

Convicts at a young offender institution in Kent in the United Kingdom have become the first in state-run jails to be given personal landlines that they buy credit to use at any time of day or night.

They can only ring numbers approved by the authorities and cannot receive calls on the handsets, while the cost of installing them is being covered by BT.

If the pilot scheme is deemed a success it could be copied in public sector prisons across England and Wales, having been used for several years in privately run institutions.

But it is taking place at the same time as the new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has vowed to stop prisoners spending all day in their cells watching television or playing video games.

Unions also fear that governors are putting phones in cells in order to reduce the amount of time that criminals spend on landings or communal areas, allowing them to reduce the number of guards required.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Greater use of IT could transform prison education, resettlement and family contact but as a complement to, not a substitute for, good professional staffing.

“No one wants Big Brother hi-tech prisons with everyone held behind their doors and no human interaction.”

The deputy general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, Harry Fletcher, said: “There must be safeguards that these phones are not used to contact, harass or intimidate victims. The same goes for drug dealing and organised crime.”

However he added that the move may reduce the number of mobile phones being smuggled into prisons.

Until recently inmates had to queue up to use phones on prison landings if they wanted to speak to friends or family, prompting a black market in mobiles brought in by visitors. Many jails now allocate time slots for individual prisoners, who must give details of who they want to call, to use the public handsets.

But some newly built jails run by private firms have started to feature phones inside cells, and now HMYOI Rochester has become the first state-run prison to install them.

In the pilot scheme, selected cells on two wings have been fitted with telephones at the Victorian institution, which is currently home to about 600 men aged between 18 and 21 who have been sentenced to up to four years behind bars.

Under the BT system, they must set up a personal account that is accessed by a PIN and give the authorities the names, addresses and phone numbers of the people they wish to call so a list can be approved. The calls are monitored and recorded by the authorities, and inmates are warned against saying anything linked to crime, escape plans, threats or coded messages.

Prisoners must buy credit to use the BT Pinphones and calls to landlines cost 9p a minute but ringing a mobile costs 20p a minute. There is no limit to how many calls they can make.

Inmates can also have televisions in their cells for £1 a week while those given “enhanced” status for good behaviour are allowed PlayStation consoles from home and can sleep on their own bedding.

Last month the prisons watchdog, Nick Hardwick, said too many prisoners were “lying on their backs in their cells watching daytime telly” because of a lack of money and staff to give them useful activities.

But some of the in-cell perks could be scrapped as ministers try to stop prisons being seen as “holiday camps”.

A law is being passed that will allow jamming devices to block mobile phone signals in jails, while access to satellite TV channels could be removed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Ministers are reviewing the policy around the incentives scheme for prisoners. It is crucial that these incentives are appropriately earned and that they have credibility with the public.

“A pilot scheme has been running at HMYOI Rochester which gives prisoners limited access to phones in their cells. In cell phones are subject to the same security controls that apply to phones on the communal landings, no prisoner can receive calls on this system.

“This pilot will be evaluated and the results considered along with the other benefits associated with the incentives scheme.”


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Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs

Here is a summary of recent news articles regarding contraband cell phones in prisons around the world. I am calling this round up of articles, “Wireless Prison Payphone™ Briefs” because this is essentially what smuggled mobile phones in jails have become – a substitute for the current wall mounted prison payphones.

Mobile phone jamming technology set for Scotland’s prisons:
Mobile phone blockers, costing up to £1 million per prison, are being planned to stop inmates continuing to run criminal operations from behind bars.

Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Whitelock, head of intelligence group at Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement, said: “We have established a national prison intelligence unit which involves close collaboration with the SPS and the eight police forces, and one of the key strands of work is to tackle the use of mobile phones in prison.”

However, the Mobile Broadband Group, which represents providers, has raised concerns. “The interference equipment that will be allowed within prisons as a result of this legislation has the potential to cause harmful interference to the customers of the mobile operators legitimately using their mobile devices in the vicinity,” it said.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont added: “Everyone agrees that prisoners should not be able to access mobile phones or the internet outwith times monitored and agreed by the Scottish Prison Service. But the way to do this is to clamp down on smuggling. (Source)

Low-tech vs. high tech to stop cell phones in prison: California prison officials are trying a new tack to stop cell phone use by inmates. They are trying to block cell phone signals, but the technology has failed when used in other states. Every year, thousands of cell phones are confiscated in California prisons.

Inmates use them for various and nefarious reasons – ordering hits and managing gang activity from the inside out. How the phones get in is just as varied and shadowy. Evidence and testimony from officials with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) show that staff members smuggle in phones for a lucrative profit.

Yet, corrections officers are not searched when they show up for work. Some reports say it would violate their contract, others say the state doesn’t want to pay for the shift time resulting from searches. What is the best way to stop cell phones in prisons? Why aren’t corrections officers searched? (Source)

Welcome to Costa del Jail! Facebook boasts of thugs and burglars serving time: Stripped to the waist and grinning from ear to ear, they look like a group of young friends posing for a holiday snap.

Actually these eight men are prison inmates parading for the camera – and they flouted a ban on mobile phones to upload the results to Facebook.

As well as dressing in their shorts, they poured scorn on the justice system by likening their prison sentences to a holiday in Spain. (Source)

Prison video visits threaten to put profit before public safety: Virtual visiting has become the latest craze in prisons, with at least 20 states now having some kind of video conferencing system in place. As most prisoners tend to get housed in facilities at least 100 – and often up to 500 – miles from home, frequent visits are impossible for families; so video calls at least offer the opportunity for some virtual face time.

Unfortunately, however, what could be a positive additional means for prisoners and their families to stay in touch is in danger of becoming any thing but a blessing. Some jurisdictions have already begun to eliminate contact visits entirely in favor of their virtual counterpart – and private corporations are already lining up to exploit this latest opportunity to fleece prisoners’ families. (Source)

Prisoner’s Facebook page ‘mocks jail system,’ union head says: A Facebook profile of a jailed, notorious street gang member highlights the smuggling problem in Quebec’s detention centres, according to the president of the province’s union of correctional officers.

Jonathan Jano Klor, sentenced to 14 years in prison in September for attempted murder, is listed on a public Facebook profile as a “young entrepreneur.”

The profile was created in July while Klor was in Montreal’s Riviere-des-Prairies Detention Centre awaiting sentencing. (Source)

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