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Contraband Cell Phones in Prisons: Possible Wireless Technology Solutions

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2010
58 pages
In response to a congressional directive in December 2009, this report presents a plan to investigate and evaluate wireless technologies that can detect and/or jam cell-phone use by prison inmates.
This report first describes Federal agency activities in investigating and evaluating methods to prevent contraband cell phone use, and it then reports on the various wireless intervention technologies. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA‘s) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) performed laboratory measurements on a jamming system at its laboratory in Boulder, CO, in 2009. It also performed field measurements on the same jamming system at a Federal corrections facility in Cumberland, MD, in 2010. Subsequently, NTIA performed a technical analysis based on these measurements. The results and findings from these efforts are presented in this report and in separate NTIA reports. In addition, in 2010, NTIA formed an interagency working group with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice in order to coordinate the activities stemming from Congress’ directive. This interagency group issued a comprehensive Notice of Inquiry on May 12, 2010, seeking public input in assisting NTIA with its investigation and evaluation of technologies that can prevent the use of contraband cell phones in Federal and State facilities. The 46 comments received from a variety of interested parties are appended. This report discusses the characteristics and capabilities of the various wireless technologies, with attention to the potential interference effects they may have on authorized radio services, including commercial wireless, public safety communications, and 911 calls. Other relevant technologies are managed access systems that intercept calls from accessing carrier networks; and detection, which involves locating, tracking, and identifying sources of radio transmissions.

Date Published: December 1, 2010