Tag Archives: Jammers

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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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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Wireless Prison Cell Phone Jamming Blocks Neighbors’ Service

The use of wireless jammers to block contraband prison cell phones is one of the many supply-side initiatives being investigated and deployed in prisons around the world.

As shown by these news items, this frequently results in the loss of cellular service for the homes and businesses located near the prisons. This calls into question the viability of using this technology to eliminate the use of contraband cell phones.

Recently, in response to reports of a growing number of consumers using cell phone jamming devices to create “quiet zones” on buses and trains, the FCC issued a stern Enforcement Advisory cautioning consumers and electronics retailers that it is against the law to use a cell phone or GPS jammer “or any other type of device that blocks, jams or interferes with authorized communications, as well as to import, advertise, sell, or ship such a device.”

“Jammers,” can include devices commonly marketed as signal blockers, GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, text blockers, etc. Some of the things jammers can do include: prevent cell phones from making or receiving calls, text messages, and emails; prevent Wi-Fi devices from connecting to the Internet; prevent GPS units from receiving correct positioning signals; and most importantly, prevent first responders from locating victims in emergencies.

In addition, the FCC stresses that they have a zero tolerance policy on unauthorized use of jamming devices and will take “aggressive action against violators.”

“Aggressive action,” against persons who illegally use, sell or even advertise cell phone or GPS jammers can include seizure of the device(s), fines of up to $112,500 per act and jail time. I’d call that pretty aggressive action.

Baja California Sen. Alejandro González Alcocer said that the blockage of cell phone calls in Mexican prisons is having a side effect, namely the loss of service to nearby homes.

The paper said that because La Mesa prison in Tijuana and the Mexicali penitentiary are located in urban areas, cell-phone service is not blocked there. If true, this would be the loss of a $1.6 million investment in a cell-phone blocking system.

González, a former Baja California governor, is the president of the Senate’s Justice Committee. He said corruption reigns in prisons, where guard let guns, phones, drugs and other items enter the facilities for a price.

A Los Angeles Times story published Monday about extortion in Mexico said many extortion calls are made from Mexican prisons.

A previous $1.6 million system to block cell phone calls set up in La Mesa prison system also blocked neighbors’ calls.

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, wireless phone bases were set up in a home near a prison, allowed inmates to use a wireless phone inside a prison there.


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Jail Warders Face Heat For Phone Usage

This article highlights some of the challenges and issues associated with the use of wireless signal jammers to stop the use of contraband cell phones smuggled into a prison in India.

With a spate of murders and extortions being abetted from Puducherry Central Prison in India by criminals inside, the Jail authorities have woken up and have taken stringent measures.

A team of security personnel on special duty seized a dozen cellphones from the jail premises since Thursday.

Jail superintendent Jayakandan and nine Jail warders have been chargesheeted for the use of personal cellphones inside the prison premises, said IG Prisons, Pankaj Kumar Jha. The prison rules state that no one is permitted to use cellphones inside the premises, except a few senior officials.Despite the installation of three jammers inside the prison and x-ray baggage scanner at? the entrance, the use of cellphone in prison has gone uncontrolled.

Three prisoners were given an additional three months imprisonment for possessing cellphones inside the Central Prison Puducherry by Judicial Magistrate-I Puducherry District Court in August last, but even that has not deterred the inmates.

Usually, cellphones reach the prisoners when they are taken out to court or a hospital. Sometimes, cellphones are thrown into the prison complex from outside, sources said.

The three jammers installed in the prison are not enough to block the cellphone signals in the entire premises. As the second phase of construction of prison complex is to begin, more towers with jammers cannot be installed to cover entire area.Further, power failure also adds to the problems of the jail authorities as the jammers do not work during outages. However, on completion, towers at appropriate place could be erected to jam mobile signals in the entire prison area, said Jha.

The prison is also short of staff. Though 42 posts of Assistant Superintendent of Jails (ASJ), Warders, Principal warders have been filled up, 18 warders and five ASJs have gone on training, which is expected to get over in four months.


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Prison To Get Cell Phone Jammers To Stymie Drug Dealers

As we have noted before, the problem of smuggled cell phones in prison is a global one. In a Jakarta prison, cell phone jammmers are being installed to stop drug smuggling. Contraband cell phones and drugs are the two most smuggled items into jails. Apparently, the Jakarta prison authorities believe one is smuggled into prison in order to facilitate the smuggling of the other.

Interestingly however, an inmate is quoted as saying, “Prison authorities could do little to ban the use of cell phones, as the government failed to provide sufficient means of communication, such as public phones, to the thousands of inmates incarcerated across the nation.” As with the use of drugs, contraband cell phones have a demand element as well as a supply element. Only addressing the supply side is short-sighted. Clearly it hasn’t worked in the war on drugs. And we don’t believe it will work in the war on contraband cell phones.

Officials say they will soon complete installation of a cellular phone jamming system at Cipinang Penitentiary in East Jakarta to halt the drug trade inside the maximum-security prison.

“We all know that drug trafficking inside the prison’s walls has been possible due to inmates’ access to devices that enable them to communicate with the outside world,” Law and Human Rights Ministry spokesman Martua Batubara told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

“We’re therefore installing this jamming system to prevent inmates from engaging in the drug business,” Martua said.

“Inmates always find ways to smuggle cellular phones into their cells, so we have to make sure that they are not going to be able to use those phones once the devices are inside the facility,” he added.

The ministry’s corrections directorate and telecommunication company PT Telkom started installing the system, known as the Correctional Telecommunication System (Stepas), in September.

Once active, the system will also affect mobile phones used by prison guards and the staff of the correctional facility.

“The prison guards and staffers will communicate using office phones,” he said.

The system has been designed to prevent interference with the radio system used by state railway operator PT KAI to monitor trains.

In-prison drug trafficking is rampant in the nation’s penal system.

Recently, the National Police’s narcotics division uncovered an international drug ring controlled by an inmate incarcerated in Indonesia’s “Alcatraz”, Nusakambangan Penitentiary, in Cilacap, Central Java.

A former Cipinang inmate who wished to remain anonymous recently told the Post that the prison was effectively a university for drug traffickers, helping small-time and medium-sized dealers improve their skills to become major players in the business.

The inmate also said that a lucrative drug trade took place inside the prison’s cells, involving almost everyone in the facility, including the prison guards, and that the widespread availability of illegal cellular phones made it easy for drug dealers to continue operating.

Prison authorities could do little to ban the use of cell phones, the inmate said, as the government failed to provide sufficient means of communication, such as public phones, to the thousands of inmates incarcerated across the nation.

Separately, University of Indonesia criminologist Adrianus Meliala said the installation of the signal jamming system was a tacit admission by the Law and Human Rights Ministry that it could not maintain discipline within the nation’s penal system.

“The ministry know that some of its prison officials are ‘dirty’ and that the smuggling of cellular phones into correctional facilities is inevitable,” Adrianus said.

“The ministry is trying to add another layer of security by installing the jammers inside the prison compound,” he added.

Adrianus said he doubted that the ministry would be able to consistently uphold its policy on the phone signal jammers.

“This policy is not a new one. This is an old policy that had been implemented earlier. For some reasons, the ministry scrapped the old one and is now trying to revive it,” he said.

The ministry had previously adopted a similar system at Nusakambangan Penitentiary.

The main problem was with the ministry: It came up with a good policy only to subsequently scrap it, he added.


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Cellphone War

The National Geographic’s Hard Time TV series most recent episode is about smuggled prison cell phones. It’s called Cellphone War and below are some facts from the show. The meshDETECT secure cell phone service addresses the legitimate inmate desire for family contact and therefore reduces the contraband value of smuggled prison cell phones.


Did you know that the ownership of a cell phone behind bars is prohibited in both state and federal facilities in the United States? Could you survive hard time without yours?

Cell phones allow inmates to contact friends and family but also gives them the ability to orchestrate crimes.

A system called Cell Hound is currently being tested to detect cell phone activity within prisons, allowing administrators to pinpoint the location of a phone being used.

Prison officials believe that the only surefire way to combat cell phone usage is to use signal jammers within the prison walls — an action that is prohibited by law.

Smuggling cell phones is a problem that occurs not only in the United States but also worldwide.
Cell phones can enter the system with the help of visitors as well as prison employees.

In prison, cell phones can range from $300 to $1,000.

One prison in Georgia is one of the few in the country that allows the use of a cell phone detection system. Its use allows officials not only to detect cell phones, but to find any other contraband that is stored within the device such as tobacco, weapons or narcotics.

Cell phone detection systems can differentiate between signals in “safe” areas and calls placed from inside designated off-limits areas, such as cell blocks.

President Obama signed a law in 2010 which makes cell phone possession a felony in federal prisons, punishable by up to one extra year on an inmate’s original sentence.

In the first four months of 2010, the Federal Bureau of Prisons workers confiscated over 1,000 cell phones.

States are stiffening penalties for officers who help prisoners get cell phones.

Texas officials claim they have the nation’s worst contraband cell phone problem, punishing inmates with sentences of up to 40 years for cell phone ownership.

Maryland and Virginia are the first states to train dogs to detect cell phones.


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Prisoner Phone Rates Increased

This article regarding the rate increase for Michigan’s state prisoner telephone services offers the following insight, “Criminologists report that prisoners with strong social bonds are less likely to re-offend or exhibit anti-social behavior. Prisoners able to talk more with their families display the higher signs of rehabilitation than prisoners who converse less frequently.” A secure prison cell phone service would increase the ability of prisoners to communicate with their families while reducing the contraband value of smuggled prison cell phones. This rate increase, to pay for cell phone signal jammers, may not have been necessary as a result.

Under a new contract, prisoners pay almost double the amount to make phone calls. The increase means more money to Department of Corrections at great cost to prison families, inmates say.

July 1, local calls went from 12 cents per minute to 20 cents per minute. Interstate calls went from 15 cents per minute to 23 cents per minute.

Public Communications Services (PCS) recently acquired the contract for Prisoner Telephone Services. PCS promotes itself as a nationwide Inmate Communications Service provider with “affordable calling options” that are approved by the correctional facilities.

Michigan Department of Corrections spokesperson John Cordell said the price increases reflect the cost of new telecommunications equipment, safety and security features.

“Embarq, which had the contract for 10 years, had not made upgrades. Out-of-date technology equipment had to be replaced,” Cordell said. “The cost of installation of equipment that can detect cell phone usage was also built into the contract.”

Not so, according to a letter received from Dennis Boatwright, imprisoned at Mid-Michigan Correctional Facility.

“A Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) memorandum showed that the PCS phone company only charges inmates 3 cents a call,” Boatwright writes. “At the same time, this memo reveals that the MDOC is receiving up to 15 cents a minute kickback.”

According to Cordell, the technology will enhance security and increase the safety of staff, prisoners, visitors and citizens of the state of Michigan.

“The equipment was not available in the past because of the high cost associated with installation,” Cordell said. “The increases in rates will offset that cost and allow the department to implement this much needed security enhancement.”

When the cost of installation is recouped, the phone rates will be reduced, Cordell said.

Security is a false issue, according to Boatwright.

Court evidence has revealed prison staff smuggle in cell phones for bribes, Boatwright says. Furthermore, there are no incident reports of cell phones being brought in by visitors through the visiting rooms.

“Funds for security measures are already accounted for in preexisting corrections budgets. The equipment the MDOC will use to detect prohibited phone calls cost significantly less than the kickbacks the corrections department will pocket,” Boatwright writes. “MDOC is using these kickbacks to prevent more prison closings, and to maintain sweetheart fringe benefits for staff such as unquestioned sick days off and numerous vacation days. To be sure, many correctional facilities are already outfitted with scanner-like devices.”

Cordell indicated the cost per minute with the previous contractor, Embarq, was fifth lowest in nation. With PCS increases, the rates are 11th lowest in nation.

Cordell says installation cost is still being calculated.

“We are still working out what the cost will be after the installation. They would be reduced, but we won’t know how much until we know what specific system we are using and what the maintenance/operational costs will be,” Cordell said. “It is too early to speculate on what the rate would be once it is reduced.

In the meantime, increased phone rates hurt not only prisoners, but also relatives and friends who send money to incarcerated loved ones, according to Boatwright.

“Criminologists report that prisoners with strong social bonds are less likely to re-offend or exhibit anti-social behavior. Prisoners able to talk more with their families display the higher signs of rehabilitation than prisoners who converse less frequently,” Boatwright writes. “Thus outrageous phone rates not only cost society additional money, but may cost even more socially if taxpayers don’t express their disapproval at this unjust business practice.”


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Michigan DOC Using Pay Phone Revenue For Jammers

The Michigan DOC is changing prison pay phone vendors and increasing the price of a prison phone call. Some of the increased revenue generated by the new phone rates will be used to install cell phone jammers to thwart smuggled contraband cell phones.

The corrections department had contracted with Kansas-based EMBARQ. That contract expired in 2009 but the company agreed to continue service until the department found a new vendor, Cordell said. EMBARQ offered the department the fifth cheapest phone rate for prisons in the country. The new contract with PCS gives Michigan prisoners the 11th cheapest phone rate in the country.

The contract is a zero-dollar contract. The corrections department contracts with PCS for the service and the users pay for it. It does not generate a profit for the department, Cordell said.

The new rate is still much cheaper than collect calls placed outside of the prison system. According to rate information on AT&T’s website, collect calls using 800-CALL-ATT cost $1.49 per minute with a $5.99 to $8.50 service charge per call. It costs $3.99 per minute and a $9.99 connection fee to make a call using 800-COLLECT, according to rates on their website.

The rate increase will go toward providing more phones in prisons and upgrading existing technology. About 29 percent of the per minute rate goes into a fund to equip the prison to detect and jam cell phones within facilities, Cordell said.

Across the country, inmates using smuggled cell phones is becoming a growing problem. It has not gotten out of hand in Michigan, Cordell said, with about eight to 10 cell phones confiscated each year. Michigan law makes it a felony to bring in a cell phone as contraband. But the trend has prison officials concerned. They search for cell phones everyday, and the new technology will allow prisons to jam cell phone signals.

“They are a huge security issue — especially a smart phone. You can run your criminal empire. You can run and organize escapes. You can put hits out on people,” Cordell said. “We take them very, very seriously.”

The new phone system will be phased into Michigan’s prisons throughout the month.


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