Innovation, especially technology innovation, requires a willingness to challenge accepted approaches to problems as well as entrenched industry “truths”. This nontraditional thinking is best captured by a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Back in June of 2011, we issued a press release announcing the introduction of the meshDETECT Secure Prison Cell Phone Solution. In the press release we said, “The meshDETECT™ secure cell phone platform devalues the contraband value of the smuggled prison cell phone and immediately creates a safer, more secure, and controllable environment for both corrections officials and detainees.” Since then we have written extensively about why contraband cell phones are a problem of both supply and demand. And about how enhanced access to telecommunications services has the proven, significant, additional benefits of reducing recidivism, improving detainee behavior and increasing officer safety.
This was not the conventional view on solving the significant and growing problem of contraband cellphones in prison at the time. In fact, many in the industry thought we were crazy for proposing giving detainees a “cell phone”.
However, according to the August 2014 issue of eTechbeat, an online magazine published by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC); the Indiana Department of Correction is now allowing inmates in two of their facilities to use cordless phones in their cells in an effort to stem recidivism and contraband cellphones and encourage better behavior while incarcerated.
In the article, INDOC Deputy Commissioner James Basinger is quoted saying, “Inmates are allowed to walk around with the phones and take them to their cells to have a phone conversation out of hearing from other inmates, which could lessen inmates’ desire for cellphones. Although inmates use contraband cellphones for criminal activity, not all inmates want them for that purpose. I think it’s a way to combat the contraband cellphone problem. In my opinion, part of the interest in cell phones is you can talk to family and friends in a private setting and are not standing up at the wall with other inmates. We want to encourage communication. Inmates with more contact with family and friends may behave better. It’s all about improving communication . It seems like a good way to improve their reintegration. If they keep connected to the family it might make them stay out of prison when they get out. We are trying to get them out and to be productive.”
Cordless phones are not a scalable or cost effective solution, but we believe this is yet another data point proving what we have been preaching. Innovation can be a lonely skate, but eventually you get to the puck.