In recent years, illegal cell phone use in correctional facilities across the US has increased exponentially. In 2008, 2,811 cell phones were confiscated from California prisons, compared to 261 in 2006, a tenfold increase. Other states, like Maryland, have seen similar increases with 1,700 cell phones confiscated in 2009 compared to 1,200 in 2008. Administrators all over the US are growing concerned.
In February, 2010, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NITA, attempted to find a solution to the illegal cell phone problem by testing cell phone jamming systems in the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. The results of the test, released in May, 2010, only related to that particular facility and therefore did not make any conclusive findings about a wider application.
The NTIA issued a call for public comment on the technology used to prevent illegal cell phone use in correctional facilities. The notice* was as follows:
“Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) seeks comment on technical approaches to preventing contraband cell phone use in prisons. Congress tasked NTIA with developing, in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), a plan to investigate and evaluate how wireless jamming, detection and other technologies might be utilized for law enforcement and corrections applications in Federal and State prison facilities. To assist in its evaluation of these technologies, NTIA requests information from the public on technologies that would significantly reduce or eliminate contraband cell phone use without negatively affecting commercial wireless and public safety services (including 911 calls and other).”
Any comments that were made on or before June 11th, 2010 are posted on NTIA’s website http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/contrabandcellphones/.
Comments on the following were of particular interest:
- Technology and approach
- Devices and frequencies
- Interference to other radio services
- Protecting authorized users and 911 calls
- Cost issues
- Location of illegal phones
- Regulation and legal issues
- Technical issues
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