Since the late 1990s, one of the most serious threats to confront the U.S. prison system has been the proliferation of contraband cell phones. Starting around the end of the 90s, the miniaturization and rapidly declining prices of cell phones meant that they were both more available and easier than ever to smuggle into the nation’s prison system.
Today, many of the nation’s prisons struggle to find solutions to the problems posed by these illicit means of communication. The phones themselves often fetch huge sums when smuggled successfully inside of jails or prisons. A Tracfone that would normally go for $10 at a convenience store may fetch upwards of $400 once it has been introduced into a prison. Inmates and gang members use the phones as a means of generating revenue, renting them out and charging fees per call for their use. This not only helps to fund organized criminal activities within the nation’s prisons, making gangs stronger and undermining the safety and integrity of the institutions where they are house, but it also robs the institutions and the company’s providing the prison phone system and related services of much-needed revenues.
But even this is not the worst aspect of the illegal cell phone problem. Highly organized prison gangs use the phones in order to communicate with foot soldiers on the outside of prison. Because many of the most powerful and largest gangs in the nation’s prisons may have up to half of their memberships operating outside of prison, this allows gang leaders to carry out criminal activities just as if they were freely walking the streets.
The types of crimes that this situation leads to are often horrific. For example, there have been thousands of cases of witness intimidation where the use of illegal cell phones by incarcerated gang leaders has been implicated. This can include physical assaults and even the murder of key witnesses in major criminal cases, putting the public directly in harm’s was and seriously undermining the integrity of the criminal justice system in the U.S.
Securus Technologies, one of the leading provider of inmate communications services in the country, has unveiled a new, innovative system that may finally put a permanent lid on the contraband cell phone problem that has so plagued the nation’s carceral institutions. Called the Wireless Containment System, the apparatus is able to successfully block 100-percent of unauthorized cell phone calls being placed within the prison’s grounds. The system also gives officers the capability to detect any unauthorized device that is currently turned on within its radium of operation.
In facilities where the system has been deployed, officers are reporting a nearly 100-percent success rate in confiscating contraband phones. The WCS may spell the end of prison gangs being afforded easy outside communications.