Over the last 20 years, the threat posed by contraband cellular devices entering the nation’s prisons and jails has reached a tipping point. Each year, the number of illegal cell phones proliferating in the nation’s carceral institutions has ballooned, with some experts estimating that nearly all of the nation’s prisoners, in 2016, could access illegal cell phones, provided that they had enough money.
But all that is beginning to change. Securus Technologies, one of the leading provider of inmate communications solutions and prison security platforms has unveiled one of the most hi-tech solutions to ever emerge in the fight against contraband cell phones. Dubbed the Wireless Containment System, the technology is directly adapted from systems developed by the Department of Defense for use on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Wireless Containment System is able to emulate local cell phone towers, tricking any targeted device into thinking that it is actually communicating with its own network when, in fact, it is directly connecting to the anti-phone system. The system then gives officers the ability to either allow the call to be passed through the system and on to the nearest tower, as would normally happen, or it gives the operator the option to deny the call, giving the user a similar message to what they would receive if they were out of range.
The system has proven to be 100 percent effective in denying unauthorized calls. However, Securus has had more difficult time getting it approved by the FCC than with many of their other products. This is because the system is essentially a military-grade technology, with the capacity to be seriously misused on the public airwaves. In fact, the system is theoretically capable of shutting down all cellular communications within the area about the size of a small town.
But Securus has tweaked the system to the point where it can be reliably programmed to only interfere with communications taking place on the prison grounds. As a result, the system has recently been approved for full use in the nation’s prisons. And it’s been off to a great start.
Prisons where the Wireless Containment System have been deployed have reported that the rate of unauthorized cellular communications has dropped to zero. On top of this, the system is designed to allow corrections officers to pinpoint the exact location of any contraband device that is turned on within prison grounds. This has, likewise, dropped the number of randomly confiscated cell phones on routine searches to nearly zero, indicating that the phones confiscated directly by detection with the Wireless Containment System amount to nearly every contraband phone within the institution.
The WCS has been a major success, and Securus is working to bring it to other prisons across the country.