[telecom] Prison to Test Cellphone Jamming


ANNAPOLIS, Md - Equipment that jams cellphones will get its first federally sanctioned test inside a prison in Maryland this week, as state officials try to show Congress how the technology can prevent inmates from using the contraband devices to commit crimes, a governor's spokesman said Tuesday.

... a bill that passed the Senate and awaits action by the House would allow states to petition the FCC to block the use of cellphones from prisons.

Testing is set to begin Wednesday at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, said Shaun Adamec, spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley.

---------------- rest:

formatting link
may be power, but communications is the key snipped-for-privacy@panix.com [to foil spammers, my address has been double rot-13 encoded]

Reply to
danny burstein
Loading thread data ...

And here it starts... anyone in a betting mood? I'm going out on a limb and saying in 2020 there will be fierce debate if churches and movie theaters should employ this technology and dropped calls due to jamming while driving past certain businesses will be the newest complaint.

I understand the need to prevent prisoners from conducting "business" from their cell, ordering hits, etc. But on the other hand prisoners who keep in touch with their families, even if it's sending an "I love you" to a child every night via text, helps to prevent convicts from returning to prison. Surely there's a compromise here without going down this path?

I can't wait for the first lawsuit when a surgeon can't be reached due to cell phone jamming.


Reply to
John Mayson

Can't they keep in touch with their families using land-line phones?

The article says that cellphones are forbidden in prisons.

- - Barry Margolin, snipped-for-privacy@alum.mit.edu Arlington, MA

*** PLEASE post questions in newsgroups, not directly to me *** *** PLEASE don't copy me on replies, I'll read them in the group *** ***** Moderator's Note *****

The prison staff has no way to monitor cellphones, whereas the landlines may be recorded, and sometimes have an announcement warning the person being called that the call originated in a correctional facility.

OTOH, cellphones don't contribute to the profits of the (pun intended) well-connected companies which run prison pay-phone services.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Barry Margolin

They are. My concern is we're effectively using a tactical nuke to kill a housefly. How much of a problem is cell phones in prison? What does that say about our prison system if these can be smuggled in and used?

I've never been in prison either as a visitor or a "guest". I question if they can monitor *ALL* legal phone calls in and out. And I also question if this is more about lost revenue with their pay phone service than anything else. Are we responding appropriately or overreacting like we have with buying cold medicine or boarding an airplane?

Reply to
John Mayson

Sigh! Can't they just RF sheild the damn buildings? Then they don't risk interfering with people outside. Churches and theatres certainly have that option. Jammers are a bad idea.

Bill Ranck Blacksburg, Va.

***** Moderator's Note *****

Passive shielding is really hard to install and maintain, even in environments (e.g., a computer data center) where all the players are on the same page and want it to work. It can't go on the outside of the building because copper thick enough to withstand the elements would cost too much. On the inside, it must be overlaid on all the windows and vents, and all the doors have to have special bonding strips (like weather strips or refrigerator seals) to close the shield when the door swings shut.

Of course, in a prison, the inmates have a vested interest in defeating the shielding. It's just not a viable solution for a corrections environment.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to

You make an excellent point. There will come a moment in time where the signal of someone's phone will be jammed in the case of a legitimate emergency.

Here is a solution for places like churches, et al. Put in little cubbyholes in the vestibule. Eveybody places their device in the cubbhole before services and retrieves after service.

Reply to

That was my first thought but it would never fly. Bill gave some valid reasons but another huge one is passive shields can't be turned off. Prison staff, medical services, law enforcement, etc. need for their radios to work and perhaps even their cell phones. The prison could turn off a jammer temporarily in those instances.

They could design that feature into new prisons, but it would create issues for the staff if they needed to radio for help.


Reply to
John Mayson

Not much good, I agree, but it *is* a major problem.

You'd be wrong. They can and do, with one exception: attorney-client communication.

No one objects more to the prison phone ripoff; it hurts those famalies outside more than the inmates, for one thing. But I do believe they have a problem with cell phones that thus far has evaded other solutions.


Reply to
David Lesher

RF shielding is VERY expensive to install, and requires constant maintenance on the doors. You need "air-lock" doorways with interlocks, and bronze fingerstock that need cleaning. In short, impossible in that environment.

What I suspect they will do is install microcells in the facility, that do NOT route calls to the outside PSTN. They could even accept

911 calls & route to their command center, in case someone outside the walls roams there.

You will not find ANY cell phones inside and here is why:

Subject: Man gets 309 years for ID theft, bribery Organization: Copyright 2010 by United Press International (via ClariNet) Message-ID: Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2010 18:24:48 EST BATON ROUGE, La., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A 309-year prison sentence was meted out Wednesday by a federal judge in Louisiana against the leader of a massive identity theft and bribery scheme.

Robert Thompson was sentenced based on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud, computer fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and obstruction of justice, the Justice Department said in a release.


To facilitate the scheme Thompson bribed a corrections officer at Elyan Hunt Correctional Center with $10,000 to provide Thompson with cellphones while an inmate at the facility, Dugas said.


In short, if the Corrections Officers were allowed to carry phones, this would be an everyday event. I suspect in any competent facility, they'd be fired for such.

One thing the microcell approach will do is immediately alert staff if a phone goes live "inside" the area.

Reply to
David Lesher

Possibly stupid question here ...

How do you know if you're in an area covered by a cell phone jammer?

Do you just get no bars? Or does it just refuse to ring and calls do not complete?

I'm kind of suspicious of one area in particular, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

Thanks. :)

Reply to

It will be stolen, as almost anything left in the vestibule will be from time to time.

Wes Leatherock snipped-for-privacy@aol.com snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com

Reply to

As mentioned, they have a legal right to monitor all telephone calls in and out of a facility except attorney-client.

There were several newspaper reports of studies on this issue. It is a fact of life that extensive monitoring is required to deter criminal activity such as gangs and drug running directed by prison inmates. The gangs are growing and are particularly vicious; they make the Corleone's 'family business' look like at kitty-cat. It is a serious problem.

It has also been reported that there is a big problem of smuggling cell phones into prison for the above usage. This is a lousy situation and has to be curtailed.

Note that many prisons are large complexes of multiple buildings over acres of property. Many are located in rural areas. Accordingly, the idea of jamming cell phone use IMHO is necessary.

Communication between inmates and their families is important toward rehabilitation and maintaining a peaceful prison. Unfortunately, many inmates have greatly abused telephone and visitor privileges and use them for smuggling and making dangerous trouble. (Many prisons have open visitor areas, not the glass and phone as seen in the movies).

I do not agree with charging inmate families ridiculously high telephone charges to keep in touch. Inmate families are usually very poor. (I also think visitation ought to be a lot easier, too.) Telephones are cheap these days. But unfortunately the labor cost of officers to monitor calls is expensive, but necessary.

Reply to

Passive jamming through shielding the building is very difficult, not perfect, and will not work well for an existing building - too easy to find (or make) a hole in the screen room. Even opening the door is enough, unless they are all man-trap double doors.

The only way to do that is weld them inside a steel box - which isn't necessarily a bad idea for a Super Max Prison.

Precisely why active jamming is illegal in the United States. The jamming party has no way of knowing what vital services they are interfering with, and it's too easy to find a frequency band that isn't jammed as well and get the call through.

If you try jamming "DC to Daylight" broad-spectrum indiscriminately on any band that could be used for illicit comms you will get in all sorts of trouble, with dozens of agencies. And you will just force the prisoners to find other ways...

(I just about gave away a good idea, but redacted myself.)

The only way I can see making it work in a prison setting is one that is physically isolated from the outside world in a far off canyon or prairie - wouldn't work as well in a dense urban setting, too much radio traffic to sift through... But that's fine, we put the real baddies in that isolated prison setting for a reason.

You don't try to jam the cellphones, you Honeypot them. With the cooperation of the local cell carriers you run a cell site either on or right outside the premises for every service.

And don't forget other common carriers like Nextel and your local Business and Ham repeaters, GMRS, Family Radio, CB... You'll have to setup an automated scanning and DF system to catch that.

Capture the call, triangulate to determine if it's inside or right outside in the buffer zone, and if it's inside you have several choices. If you run a multi-point antenna system through the prison for the Officer's radios, you can use it as a passive receiver and triangulate the cellphone location down to inches.

The simplest response is to play a pre-recorded announcement that since one party to the call has been determined to be inside or within an X-mile exclusion zone of a prison, all the call details and the audio is being recorded for possible law enforcement action.

That would control prisoners from passing illegal coded messages to the outside, because all the calls are being monitored just like from the prison phone system. Except that the Attorney Client Privilege doesn't apply on a smuggled cellphone - you say it, we know it.

Oh, and we put a readout of the Direction Finding gear in the prison security office, and all the call info will pop up along with an open speaker with both sides of the conversation... In about 15 seconds or so they will announce a lockdown, then six guards in full riot gear will be in to toss your cell. We know there's an illegal phone in there, and exactly who had it in their hands.

This should be fairly easy to accomplish with current technology, just integrate a bunch of off-the-shelf gear and (here's the fun part) write the software that makes it all work together.


Reply to
Bruce L.Bergman

On Thu, 18 Feb 2010 05:18:19 +0000, David Lesher wrote: .......

Assuming you have a "microcell" for every potential wireless type available now and in the past.

People could replace the insides of handsets so that something that may look like an innocuous modern GSM handset on the outside could well operate on something totally different and go undetected by equipment "assuming" that it is a normal phone.

Big can of worms here.........

Reply to
David Clayton

I thought prisoners had to call collect.

Reply to
Barry Margolin

It could vary from state to state or even county to county for jails. Texas apparently has a friends and family plan.

formatting link
The FAQ specifies a land line phone and the registration form says it's for security reasons. There are a variety of payment plans including recipient pays and caller pays.

Have we made it so difficult for a prisoner to make a legal call that smuggled cell phones have become the path of least resistance?

I forget where I was living, Florida or Texas. I received a call from a prisoner with in prison or a jail. The announcement only identified the fact the caller was in a correctional facility. Since I didn't know anyone in prison or jail I declined the call and hung up.


Reply to
John Mayson

They can buy special calling cards, at least in California.

Reply to

Every now and then I hear a report of a gang member in a Texas prison ordering a hit from his prison cell. Is this by cell phone? Letter? Unmonitored call? What about prisoners who speak something other than English or Spanish? Will the prison have someone on staff to monitor? It doesn't sound like a very robust system to me, but I'm not an expert. :-)


Reply to
John Mayson

That sounds like the prison near Florence, Colorado. Wes Leatherock snipped-for-privacy@aol.com snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com

Reply to

The authoritative answer to that is "by any means available to send a message out".

Methodologies use include:

  • Face-to-face with a 'trusteed' visitor,

  • Having a visitor -- possibly legal counsel -- 'relay' a message to a third party -- a message that contains a 'secret' (from the person doing the relaying) meaning.

  • Passing a similar 'secret' message in a _monitored_ phone call. "Smuggling" a letter out -- so that the normal inspection by prison staff is bypassed.

For any 'standard' language there are obvious solutions.

There are two functions to 'monitoring' prison calls.

1) There is a *LIMITED* list of persons on the outside that a prisoner is allowed to have contact with. A big part of the monitoring function is to ensure that they communicate with those people, and those people *only*. Towards that end, both the caller and the called party have to speak a language the 'operator' understands while setting up the call, and getting the 'right' person on the other end. After that, it is simply a matter of ensuring that the only voices on the call are those that were heard initially. For _that_ it doesn't really matter what language they speak. 2) A very much _secondary_ function is listening in for anything that could be called 'inappropriate'. The calls are all _recorded_, as well as being listened to in real-time, and (if indicated by 'after the fact' events) an expert can be found to provide a translation. This fails when the parties to the call are speaking a 'private' argot -- for example, a gang's 'private language', used only among gang members. It sounds like they're saying one thing, but the 'real' message is something totally different. It is, for obvious reasons, nearly impossible to find a 'trustworthy' source to translate that argot. Let alone a 'second opinion' to ensure the accuracy of the first translation.

It doesn't _prevent_ *all* disallowed things from happening, although it is _quite_ effective at preventing a lot of proscribed activities.

And, for the things it doesn't prevent, there _is_ an 'audit trail' for "after the fact" examination.

It's _not_ a perfect solution, but it is far better than whatever is in second place.

A while back (_very_ roughly 20 years ago) several senior members of a very rough/tough Chicago-area gang (The "Blackstone Rangers"??) were tried for conducting various ongoing criminal operations -- drug dealing, beatings, and some murders -- while incarcerated. The 'reliability' of the "translation" of their private argot was a

-major- issue at trial.

Reply to
Robert Bonomi

Cabling-Design.com Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.