Jail Phone Jamming

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Jail Phone Jamming

It has been observed in the last few years that the use of banned cell phones by inmates in correctional institutions has been increasing in the US. In California alone, in 2008, about 2811 cell phones were seized from inmates, whereas the figure was only 261 in 2006, showing a tenfold increase over a period of two years. Such increases have also been observed in other states of the country, such as in Maryland jails, where the number of phones seized was 1700 in 2009 when compared to 1200 in the previous year. This rapid increase has led to plenty of concern among the jail authorities in the country.

NTIA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, tried to find an answer to this problem and installed a jamming system to block cell phones on a testing basis in Cumberland Federal Jail in February 2010.  The results of this jamming system test were released on the 12th of May, 2010, but the results only indicate the conditions at the Federal institution in Cumberland and do not make any claims to generalization of the results.

Now, NTIA has issued a report and wants to have public opinion regarding the different modern technologies that can be used to stop banned cell phones from being used in correctional institutions. Their notice claims that NTIA wants to hear the opinions regarding means of avoiding the use of illegal cell phones by inmates and technical means of preventing this issue. The Congress has requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), to cooperate with NTIA in order to develop a plan to enforce the law in correctional institutions by evaluating the methods of wireless jamming. They would have to investigate how such technologies could be applied in prisons, such as in federal and state prisons. NTIA has made a request to the public asking them for information regarding such technologies and whether the technologies would be effective in reducing the menace of contraband cell phone use in jails. At the same time, the technologies should not affect any other services, such as the public safety service or the commercial wireless service, as well as calls made to 911 and other such calls.

Any comments on the above notice sent before June 11, 2010 can be viewed on the NTIA website at www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/contrabandcellphones?ref=its

The comments and views of the public are with regard to the following issues:

  • Legal and regulatory issues
  • Devices and frequency bands
  • How to locate contraband phones
  • Interference offered to other radio services
  • Considerations of cost
  • Issues relating to technology
  • Protecting calls made to 911 and allowing only authorized users
  • Approaches/technologies



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Jail Phone Jamming

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