Detecting and Eradicating Contraband Cell Phones is a Matter of Public Safety

Detecting and Eradicating Contraband Cell Phones is a Matter of Public Safety

Jeffrey B. Haidinger, President & Chief Operating Officer, GTL

PRNewsWire – In 2010, former Corrections Captain Robert Johnson was shot six times in an attempted contract killing orchestrated via a contraband cell phone. He survived the ordeal and recently wrote about the dangers of contraband cell phones in The Post and Courier.

Captain Johnson is correct. Cell phones are a particularly dangerous form of contraband, and they have morphed into a national epidemic and a serious public safety issue. As he said, “they are often used to organize protests, plan escapes, intimidate witnesses, facilitate the sale of weapons and drugs, and orchestrate murders from behind bars.” It is not only corrections staff who are at risk, but the general public as well.

In November 2016, the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) sent a letter to the FCC citing examples of the horrific crimes that have been committed because an inmate had access to a contraband cellphone. In their letter, the ASCA asked for the FCC to take immediate action and said that these forbidden cellphones infiltrating correctional facilities nationwide are a “dire public safety threat.”

As recently as early July 2017, a convicted kidnapper escaped a maximum-security prison in South Carolina using a contraband cell phone to coordinate the delivery of wire cutters via a drone. While he was later apprehended, this is a huge threat to public safety. This incident occurred almost a week after South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) Director Bryan P. Stirling and other policy makers went before the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC asking them to take action to defeat contraband cell phones for the safety of their corrections officers, employees, and for the public at large. Technology partners to Corrections like GTL support and share in the concerns recently expressed by the ASCA, SCDC Director Stirling, and other correctional administrators.

The FCC is not the only organization that must participate in solving this problem. Wireless carriers must realize their important role in closing the gap on this public safety issue. Much like the public-private partnership these carriers formed to build and execute the AMBER Alert System, wireless carriers have the resources to help solve the contraband cell phone problem in the immediate future.

Unless wireless carriers take an active role and work with the FCC and the corrections community to solve this problem, security incidents of all kinds will continue to occur. Wireless carriers have a crucial role to play when it comes to building a solution that truly promotes public safety by eliminating these dangerous contraband wireless devices in correctional facilities. As the corrections industry technology leader, GTL is joining the ASCA, SCDC Director Stirling, and countless others that have gone before the FCC to encourage wireless carriers to support the efforts of those who are working hard to better protect our communities.

Consistent with previous FCC meetings and filings, GTL formally submitted comments to the FCC as part of a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM). In this filing, among other things, GTL stresses that the FCC should allow all available technology options for combatting contraband cell phones and take all the necessary steps to insure wireless carriers actively and fully participate in the development and deployment of those options. Carriers must be partners in the process.

There is no denying it—an inmate escape is a serious public safety issue, and GTL strongly encourages FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and FCC Commissioners to move quickly towards building consensus among all stakeholders, including wireless providers, to develop solutions to tackle this nationwide epidemic. This much-needed change in regulation would give the corrections community a fighting chance at winning this war on contraband cell phones and increasing public safety.

Press Contact: Vinnie Mascarenhas
[email protected]

July 31, 2017 / Blog

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Detecting and Eradicating Contraband Cell Phones is a Matter of Public Safety

In the push to reduce the recidivism rate, correctional facilities are moving away from a traditional layout to one that is designed for inclusiveness and keeping inmates engaged with outside society. Studies have shown that maintaining a support structure is a key component to keeping inmates on the right path to successful reintegration into society after release. In Australia, a new maximum security prison opened this year that includes no cells. Instead, inmates are housed in dormitory-style accommodations with 25 inmates in 16 ‘pods’ that offer more access to education, entertainment, and communication with friends and families. This novel move seeks to enhance inmates’ daily lives by making these services more accessible and improve re-integration into society. Inmates have access to technology that connects them with friends and family members, news, books, movies, education, games, and more. They are required to work for up to five hours during the day and pursue education and other programs in the remaining time. This progressive approach aligns with GTL’s vision of technology and education being available to every inmate. “GTL has the technology portfolio to enable correctional facilities to execute their strategies,” said Gad Tobaly, President, GTL International. “Whether those strategies are similar to the open-plan jail approach or focus on a more traditional environment, we offer the innovations to help facilities become safer and more secure while providing inmates with access to programs that improve their lives during and after incarceration.” GTL creates new technologies and advocates for tablets, education, and other programs to help reduce recidivism rates. “These new facilities highlight the need for technology in corrections,” said Eric Gonzalez, Executive Director, Technology and Implementation Services. “Today’s inmates are digital natives, having grown up in the age of computers, cell phones, tablets, and more. It is only logical that providing them with technology and programs to learn and better themselves through those access points is the direction that corrections is taking.” As part of GTL’s ongoing mission to keep our offerings in line with global corrections trends, the company will once again be a sponsor at the International Corrections & Prisons Association (ICPA) Annual Conference. This year’s conference is being held at the Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Canada. The conference theme of “Beyond Prisons: The Way Forward” will draw discussion on the underpinning philosophies, strategic direction, policies, and practices being instituted across the globe. More than 500 delegates from over 70 countries attend this prestigious conference. GTL and two collaborating organizations will present on two topics that relate to the use of technology in aiding the corrections and criminal justice systems. “Transforming the Inmate Environment: How and Why Facilities are Implementing Tablet Programs” will discuss how technology is used to humanize correctional efforts and will take place on Tuesday, October 23rd at 11:00 a.m. in Maisonneuve A Room. “Virtual-Enabled Justice: Delivering Swifter Outcomes and Improved Victim and Witness Experience” will discuss the use of technology to create ‘virtual courts’ that fuel efficiency, safety, and security, and will take place on Tuesday, October 23rd at 3:30 p.m. in Maisonneuve A Room. To learn more about our technology solutions, contact GTL today.