Tag Archives: managed access

$11M Prison Managed Access Jamming Called “A Complete And Utter Waste Of Money”

managed-access-jamming-failureA cautionary tale for prisons contemplating shelling out millions of dollars for managed access systems to jam contraband cell phones. A prison in New Zealand has spent over $11M (US) in installation and upgrades on a cellular signal jamming system that has not prevented the ongoing use of wireless devices.

Taxpayers have forked out $17 million on cellphone jamming technology for prisons – but inmates continue to be caught with increasing numbers of contraband mobile phones.

Despite a network blocking system designed to stop Mt Eden prisoners using cellphones, footage of a “fight club” found its way out of the Auckland jail and on to social media.

Serco confirmed a cellphone was found during a full search of Mt Eden prison on Monday.

Corrections found 284 of the banned devices in the country’s prisons in the 2013-14 financial year.

The previous financial year the department found 274 cellphones unlawfully held by prisoners or brought in by visitors. It also confiscated 119 phone batteries, 128 chargers and 151 SIM cards.

Corrections’ cellphone jamming system cost a budget-blowing $10.9m to install between 2007 and 2009.  It budgeted $5.7m and nearly $6.7m has been spent since, including almost $2.3m in the first five months of last year on a systems upgrade. That followed a $1.3m spruce-up in 2011, according to records released under the Official Information Act.

Yet it does not seemed to have curbed prisoners’ efforts to smuggle them in – and they would not bother if the phones didn’t work, prison drug and alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking said.

A prison intelligence report this year showed Killer Beez founder Josh Masters was continuing to lead the street gang and arrange drug supply from his prison cell using a smuggled cellphone.

Last year convicted murderer Buddy Campbell used a cellphone to post selfies to his Facebook page while an inmate in Rimutaka prison.

Inmates had previously told Brooking they exploited loopholes, finding they could connect to 2 Degrees when it was first launched, he said.

Brooking said keeping cellphones out of prisoners’ hands to protect the public was a “valid concern”, but $17m could have been better spent on healthcare and counselling.

“I think it’s a complete and utter waste of money.”

The jammers were designed to block cellular access to the internet, Corrections said.

But it would not comment on whether mobile network bands 3G and 4G were covered, saying revealing the information would provide insight to prisoners and their associates.

Corrections national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said cellphones were banned to prevent prisoners organising crime, harassing victims and perverting the course of justice.

The department was constantly responding to telecommunications industry evolution in its efforts to keep the public safe.

Current prisoner Arthur Taylor contacted Fairfax to say he was concerned about the cellphone jammers’ radiation, claiming he could see 10 of the devices stationed on his block.

Asked if he thought the jammers worked, Taylor replied: “Cellphone finds were well down before the jammers arrived – due to other security measures.”


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Few Consequences For Texas Prison Cell Phone Smuggling

texas-prison-cell-phoneA Texas Tribune investigation has found that few inmates or correctional officers face legal consequences for smuggling cellphones even as prison officials have intensified efforts to keep the devices out of prisons. Just 5 percent of cellphone smuggling cases investigated by the Criminal Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General from 2009 to 2013 resulted in a criminal sentence, according to documents obtained from the office through a public information request.

Some notable excerpts from the article:

In 2003, legislators made smuggling the devices into prisons a felony. Since 2009, the state has allocated $10 million every two years for “security enhancements for contraband interdiction,” said Robert Hurst, a Criminal Justice Department spokesman.

The enhancements include a special K-9 unit responsible for sniffing out cellphones, increased video surveillance of guards and the addition of “managed access systems” at two prisons that intercept all but a few specified outgoing cellular signals.

The costs of the offender telephone service are “so high, that’s one of the reasons why inmates turn to cellphones,” said Michele Deitch, a prisons expert at the University of Texas at Austin. “They really need the phone access, which promotes healthier families, but at those rates it becomes an incredible burden on the families.” A phone call with the service costs up to 26 cents per minute.

For guards, who risk their jobs and felony charges by dealing in contraband, the financial reward can be much larger than their salaries.

“The temptation is there, if there’s not a strong deterrent to misbehavior,” said Pelz, the former warden, adding that a smuggled cellphone can fetch up to $3,000. “Your weakest link is the employees bringing the contraband in.”

Lance Lowry, president of the Texas correctional employees local of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Emlpoyees union, said many who resort to smuggling were trying to supplement low wages. Entry-level correctional officers make about $29,000 a year. At that rate, one cellphone could amount to 10 percent of an officer’s annual salary.

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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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Caution Advised On Managed Access Jamming For Prisons

prison-cell-phone-jamming-problemsAs we have written before, managed access cell phone jamming systems being tested in prisons around the world have been deployed with mixed results. In addition to requiring ongoing management and investment post deployment, they have a spotty record and not all vendor’s equipment works as advertised.

Recently, the Cayman Islands issued a report on their managed access trial. According to the report, which is discussed in the article below, “The prisons service installed a cell phone jamming device at Northward in December 2009, but the equipment has never worked properly. A large communications tower next to the prison complex, which operates most of the radio station signals in the Cayman Islands, causes signal “bleed over” that interferes with the cell phone jamming device.”

In addition, the U.K. prisons inspectorate, which recently reviewed the Cayman Islands prisons system, advised caution for entities seeking to purchase phone jamming equipment.

“Many companies make claims concerning the effectiveness of various technologies or items of equipment, but the long-term independent verification is often difficult to obtain,” said Stephen Fradley of the UK’s prisons inspectorate.

Officials with Cayman’s prisons service said they have tried their best to implement cell phone jamming technology at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward, but funding concerns have blocked their efforts.

That is the response to a report tabled in the Legislative Assembly Monday regarding what Complaints Commissioner Nicola Williams said was a failure of the prisons system to follow her recommendations concerning prison safety and management issued in a 2011 report.

Two of the three recommendations from that report, which detailed a strip search conducted on three teenage girls at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fairbanks, were followed by government officials. The special report made public by Cayman lawmakers Monday dealt only with the third and final recommendation made by Ms Williams’s office.

Ms Williams recommended that the prison system should install phone jamming equipment at both Northward and Fairbanks “since, realistically, it is virtually impossible to stop cell phone and BlackBerry use in prisons….”

“[It] would avoid regular and repeated use of strip-searching as a means of retrieval, which could not only put both the prison and the Cayman Islands government in violation of human rights protections, but also leave both entities open to lawsuits.”

The prisons service installed a cell phone jamming device at Northward in December 2009, but the equipment has never worked properly. A large communications tower next to the prison complex, which operates most of the radio station signals in the Cayman Islands, causes signal “bleed over” that interferes with the cell phone jamming device.

That information was revealed following Ms Williams’s 2011 report on the prison service.

In a communication sent to the complaints commissioner last month, Ministry of Home Affairs chief officer Eric Bush noted the government wished to accomplish cell phone jamming at the prisons, but noted that it was unclear how government might get to that stage.

“We have not had the funding provided to purchase additional cellular jamming equipment that would satisfy your recommendation,” Mr. Bush wrote. “There are a number of security-related matters that would take priority over additional cellular jamming equipment, should an abundance of funding be allocated to the prison service.”

In addition, the U.K. prisons inspectorate, which recently reviewed the Cayman Islands prisons system, advised caution for entities seeking to purchase phone jamming equipment.

“Many companies make claims concerning the effectiveness of various technologies or items of equipment, but the long-term independent verification is often difficult to obtain,” said Stephen Fradley of the UK’s prisons inspectorate.

Mr. Fradley said the U.K. National Offender Management Service is currently evaluating an “approved contractor list” for the cell phone jamming technology.

A report from the agency on that issue was due by the end of the year, Mr. Fradley said.

The responses by the local ministry to her recommendations were simply not good enough, Ms Williams concluded

“The [Office of the Complaints Commissioner] accepts both the financial constraints of the ministry and that some efforts toward compliance have been made by the ministry with regard to the outstanding recommendation,” she said. “This falls far short of compliance.”


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Australia Launches Contraband Prison Cell Phone Jamming Trial

australia-jamming-prison-mobile-phonesAn Australian-first trial of technology that will stop inmates from making calls from mobile phones they’ve illegally smuggled into jail has begun at a prison west of Sydney. The project trials the use of a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to jam phones within the prison under the supervision of the ACMA and mobile phone carriers.

The DAS system will jam the channels transmitting mobile phone signals within the prison but prevent disruption outside the prison. Kordia has provided the DAS design which has been installed by an independent contractor under Kordia supervision. Kordia is now activating the jamming system into the DAS and will be running a series of tests to prove the system’s effectiveness and ensure mobile signals outside the prison complex are unaffected.

The jammers and accompanying distributed antenna system will be provided by chosen suppliers WiComm and Lan Installations for contracts worth $462,000 and $178,000 respectively.

NSW Corrective Services had to seek exemptions from the Australian Communications and Media Authority to conduct the trial as current legislation makes it an offence to operate, supply or possess a jamming device. Lithgow Jail is understood to be fit for a jamming-only trial due to its remoteness. If the nine-month $1.06 million Lithgow trial proved successful in stopping calls while not impacting on mobile phone use outside the jail then jamming would likely be rolled out to the state’s other maximum security prisons.

However, using jammers to block signals in Australia’s prisons is not expected to be the all encompassing solution. Containing a signal block to a particular area is difficult to achieve without having leakages affecting surrounding residents accoring to David Stone at New Zealand’s Telecommunications Carriers Forum

The New Zealand Government has hit several roadbumps since introducing jamming technology in all of its 20 prisons in 2009, with reports of cost blowouts, radiation leakage and sparse jamming coverage.

The jamming technology used in NZ prisons reportedly only covered an average 60 percent of each facility, with the government forced to fork out more cash than expected to upgrade and fix the system. It also received complaints from residential areas around the prison.

“There were certainly instances where neighbouring premises were significantly negatively impacted. The actual signal strength was amped up in those sectors to cover it, but some people had negative experiences,” Stone said.

The NZ Government has declined to detail what mix of technology it has used in its jamming project. It is understood the government initially used jammers but on the advice of the local telco industry has started building cell sites within prison facilities.

Paul Brislen of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand said that had the NZ Government listened to the technical advice it had been given, neighbours would not have been affected.

“The telcos said the easiest thing to do would be to put a cellphone tower in the prison, so any smuggled cell phones would lock onto it, but they didn’t want to do that, despite the telcos saying it was the cheapest and best way of doing it. In the end they were forced to implement some kind of jamming regime,” Brislen said.

He said blocking signals was almost impossible to achieve.

“Cell phone signals from the tower to the phone are designed, much like the internet, to lock onto and get around any kind of damage, and all of this kind of stuff is treated as damage, so the signal works really hard to get around it. [The devices are] working quite hard to connect to the nearest tower,” Brislen said.

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“Managed Access” For Prison Contraband Cell Phones Is High Maintenance

high-maintenance-managed-accessAccording to a recent article, managed access systems (MAS) are not plug and play. They require ongoing systems management and staff time. This means ongoing cost, in addition to the high cost and operational challenges of installation.

The Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman was the first prison in the country to use the Intelligent Network Access Controller (iNAC), which blocks service for contraband cell phones inside the prison walls. Being on the cutting edge involved some learning, said Sean Smith, who heads the state’s Corrections Investigation Division.

“Our biggest misconception was the idea that it was plug-and-play,” Smith said. “It is not. It’s called managed access for a reason.”

The reason is that the system can require daily management to keep it tuned to the precise footprint needed.

It can take several weeks to get a system configured to operate within the required parameter. But the RF environment is not static, and additional adjustments can be needed on a daily basis. Signal strength, direction and penetration can vary depending on physical changes in the environment, weather and outside signals from carriers’ cell sites.


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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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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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Avenal State Prison Cell Phone Jammer Test

Update (10/19/12): The Avanal cell phone Managed Access System (MAS) system is scheduled to go live on Monday October 22nd. Very soon, inmates at Avenal won’t hear a dial tone if they try to make an outgoing call. Instead, they’ll hear: “The cellular device that you are using at Avenal State Prison has been identified as contraband. It is illegal to possess.”

Avenal flips the switch Monday, and will be the first facility to block cellphones. In the next three years, all 35 institutions in the California are expected to have the technology installed.

Staff numbers are programmed to work, but all other cellphones inside the prison will be blocked.

It will mean that prisoners can no longer make voice calls, send emails, text messages (or) access the Internet.


Original Posting:

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) plans to implement a Managed Access System (MAS) at Avenal State Prison on or about October 1, 2012.  According to CDCR, an MAS is “a system which deploys a secure cellular umbrella over a specified area generally within the bounds of a facility, to either permit or interfere with transmissions from mobile wireless devices.”

According to the Association of California State Supervisors blog, the MAS test phase at ASP will run from approximately October 1st through October 15th.  At the end of the test phase, ASP will go live with MAS. CDCR eventually will be implementing the MAS at all institutions statewide.

On September 25, 2012, ACSS conducted a meet and confer with CDCR Labor Relations staff and MAS subject matter experts to ensure that your career will remain productive and protected.

ACSS:   Who is responsible for monitoring the MAS system?
CDCR:  MAS is a hosted system.  The system will be monitored and installed by a third party, Global Tel*Link (GTL).  CDCR will be responsible for the authorization process for mobile devices.

ACSS:    Will the MAS be used to track employee arrival to work, and/or exit from work times?
CDCR:    No.

ACSS:   When will MSA be implemented at other institutions?
CDCR:   The MAS implementation is scheduled to complete within 36 months following Contract effective date of May 31, 2012.  The CDCR has identified a phased approach and plans to finalize the implementation schedule, that includes: Phase 0, one (1) facility to be completed within 5 months of contract award; Phase I, 17 adult facilities to be completed within 18 months of contract award; Phase II, 19 adult facilities to be completed within 36 months of contract award.  Future Phases/Sites currently in the design, construction and/or planning stages are to be completed within 6 months of the State’s request to GTL.  Implementation of Phases I, II, or Future Phases/Sites will not begin without CDCR’s acceptance of Phase 0 test results.

ACSS:    What devices will be authorized?
CDCR:   At each institution there will be a process to submit a request to authorize a mobile device.  Once the device is approved to have authorized access it will be entered into the MAS system as an authorized device.  At this time, CDCR anticipated that only those mobile devices that are necessary for state business will be authorized, i.e. state issued cell phone.  Personal cell phone will be considered on a case by case basis.  CDCR anticipated that authorization of personal cell phones will only occur in extraordinary situations.

ACSS:    Will employees be able to use their personal cell phones in non secure areas like employee parking lots, break areas, etc?
CDCR:   CDCR is making an effort to configure the MAS system to allow personal cell phone use in employee parking lots.  However, due to the nature of the MAS system that may not always be possible.  CDCR provides payphones in institution administration buildings and Visitor Processing area that can be utilized by employees.  In addition, CDCR employees are allowed to use state phones to call home if they are going to work late.  Furthermore, MAS does not affect the ability of incoming callers to leave a voice message on unauthorized devices.

ACSS:    Will CDCR track or monitor personal phone calls, local or remote whereabouts or other activities while on or off duty employees use authorized devices? 
CDCR:    MAS is able to block calls from unauthorized devices within the radio frequency umbrella. MSA will capture information regarding unauthorized devices such as the cellular phone number, mobile device hardware ID, telephone number called, as well as the date and time of the call.  Tracking will only occur on outgoing communications.  Incoming communications are blocked and not captured.  Authorized devices will not be tracked by MAS.  The information captured and tracked by MAS is not under the control of CDCR.  The MAS information that is captured and tracked is managed by the third party monitoring the system and only made available with a valid warrant.

Under Penal Code Section 4576 (e) “the department shall not access data or communication that have been captured using available technology from unauthorized use of a wireless communication device except after obtaining a valid search warrant.”  Under Penal Code Section 4576 (f) “the department shall not capture data or communications from an authorized wireless communication device, except as already authorized under existing law.” (Cal. Pen. Code, sec. 4576)

ACSS:    What is the cost to the state?
CDCR:   There is zero cost to the state for the MAS system. Global Tel*Link (GTL) be responsible for all costs associated with implementation of the MAS services, including costs associated with new installation of MAS equipment and services.  The costs of implementing Managed Access System services at all CDCR institutions are provided by GTL with the revenue generated by the Inmate/Ward Telephone System.  There are no additional costs incurred by California taxpayers or inmate/ward families and friends.


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