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