One of the biggest challenges prisons face is controlling or even eradicating illegal contraband. However, the most dangerous forms of contraband isn’t always a weapon, but a cell phone. Illegal cell phones give prison gangs and other criminals the ability to run illegal enterprises from within their cells. Lower gang members or criminal associates on the outside execute orders, placing people – including us – in danger. However, technology has emerged that is making illegal cell phones practically useless.
Securus Technologies, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, recently developed technology that tracks down communication attempts made by unauthorized prison cell phones and then blocks each attempt. Calls are dropped and texts aren’t completed because signals never reach a cell phone tower. This technology, called Wireless Containment Solution (WCS), is being implemented in many prisons nationwide. A recent test of this technology resulted in the blockage of over 1.7 million illegal communication attempts in just eight prisons over a period of one year. Although the total number of attempts being made in all prisons may reach into the hundreds of millions, WCS can make a huge dent in criminal organization and activities, resulting in safer communities for all of us.
However, the road to WCS wasn’t easy. The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, for many years had regulations on the books that prevented the use of phone-jamming technologies. Prison officials and other advocates lobbied the FCC to relax these rules for prisons. Robert Johnson, a former corrections officer and current consultant for Securus, testified about his story and how contraband cell phones threaten and take innocent lives. He described how a prison gang used an illegal phone to arrange a hit on him at his home that left him fighting for his life. Eventually he recovered and made it his goal to eliminate this type of contraband in prisons. Robert Johnson, as well as others, influenced the FCC to change their stance and allow prisons to use selective call blocking technologies.
As WCS and similar technologies are deployed throughout the prison system, it will prevent crime. Thanks to this technology and people like Robert Johnson, we will be even safer in our communities.