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New Technology Detects and Blocks Contraband Communications Devices in CA Prisons

April 19, 2012

By Jack Grauer, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Global Tel is a private company that owns California prison pay phones. Recently, they funded a multi-million dollar project to detect and block contraband cell phone use inside of California prisons.

California State Prison in Solano will have the blocking systems in place by the end of 2012. All prisons in California will have them by 2015.

The argument in support of the gesture says smuggled cell phones allow inmates to phone-in their grime: witness intimidation, co-ordinate violence against prison personnel, and to put in administrative work for criminal enterprise on the outside.

State government took sensible measures to ensure that Global Tel does not turn their grip on prison communications into a stranglehold. The privately owned company will send a cool $800,000, annually, to the California Technology agency, to ensure that Global Tel doesn't drive up the rates on publically available prison phones. In fact, the deal is expected to reduce out going collect-call rates for California prisoners by 22 cents a minute.

Arguments against the gesture question the checks and balances in place will stop Global Tel from exploiting a situation that is undeniably a conflict-of-interest. Along with all of the dirt on contraband cell phones, human relationships are kept alive on them. When you eliminate a venue for the former, you simultaneously eliminate a venue for the latter. As executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children Dorsey Nunn points out: whether or not your mother is behind bars exerts an enormous effect your perspective on the issue. 

A trial run of Global Tel’s system at two California prisons detected 2,593 illegal wireless devices and blocked 25,000 calls over the course of 11 days.

An editorial on Techzone 360 brings an important insight on the matter. While it is likely that the technology for this type of intervention has been available for a long time, if financial interest was not so close to the heart of the decision, why did California wait until now to do anything?

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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