One company is changing the way illegal cell phones in prison are detected

Ask any of the tens of thousands of men and women who work as prison guards in the nation’s penal system what the worst threat they face is, and you may get a surprising answer. Many people who are unfamiliar with the dynamics of the U.S prison system, especially the extent to which well-organized prison gangs control the internal operations and inmate politics of the nation’s carceral facilities, may be surprised that one of the most serious threats to the safety and order of U.S. prisons is that posed by illegal cellular devices.


Since the mid-1990s, contraband cell phones have posed a serious threat to every jail and prison into which they were introduced. While these devices may seem relatively benign, certainly no more dangerous, on first glance, than a knife or other weapon, they are actually the single most dangerous piece of contraband that can be introduced into a prison.


The extreme threat posed by contraband cell phones is due to the highly organized nature of modern prison gangs. Unlike a lone criminal, who can be completely neutralized simply by locking him up, away from the rest of society, prison gangs continue to pose serious threats to the safety of both the institutions where they are housed and the public at large, even when they are apparently locked safely behind bars and razor wire.


Modern prison gangs operate on a military-like hierarchy, with highly regimented lower ranks, which often undergo daily, military-style training on the prison rec yard. The upper ranks of these gangs, also known as shot-callers or generals, are frequently highly sophisticated and intelligent criminals, many of whom are serving life sentences for heinous crimes.


Once illegal cell phones fall into the hands of these dangerous organizations, they are instantly able to communicate with soldiers on the outside of prison, who may make up the majority of the organization. These soldiers are often ex-convicts themselves, who have sworn lifelong oaths to the gang during previous stints of incarceration.


Once these lines of communication are established, gangs are able to intimidate witnesses, conduct high-level drug deals and even order hits on people that they believe are standing in the way of their goals. Unfortunately, such murders have been on the rise over the last two decades. And these crimes are almost always facilitated by illegal cell phones that have been illicitly introduced into the institutions where the gangs are housed.


Now, Securus Technologies, one of the nation’s foremost providers of prison communications and safety devices, is beginning to deploy a system that may put a permanent end to illegal cell phone use. Its Wireless Containment System has been proven to completely block all unauthorized calls placed on cellular devices from with the grounds prisons where it has been deployed.