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No More 'Cell' Phones

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2005
2 pages
This article outlines several possible technology approaches for dealing with inmates' possession and use of cell phones.
Small cell phones can be smuggled into correctional facilities for use by inmates to continue criminal activities, harass victims, or transmit photographs. Currently, several technologies can be used to counter the cell phone problem. One strategy is to locate cell phones and confiscate them. This requires a technology that can locate cell phones when they are turned on only for a few minutes at a time, as well as detect signals emanating from any area of a facility and through thick concrete walls. Another strategy is to overpower the cell phone signal with a stronger signal. Many small pockets of small "jamming" could keep a facility under control. A third strategy is to "trick" the cell phone into acting as though a "no service" signal is coming from the nearest cell tower. A fourth approach involves signal interception, which consists of retrieving the telephone and serial numbers from operational phones. This can only be done under a judge's order, however. Technologies that block the use of cell phones confront regulatory or legal issues. Signal detection is the simplest option; however, the affordability of existing detection technology is the issue. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the National Institute of Justice, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren are collaborating on a multiyear project to evaluate the problem and facilitate the development of effective and affordable detection technology.

Date Published: January 1, 2005