Seven inmates were killed and another 17 were injured following a prison inmate-on-inmate riot at Lee Correctional Institution. Prison guards, then SWAT teams and then Fire & Rescue teams ultimately broke up the multiple-hour altercation.

What could have instigated such a violent riot in a level-3 maximum security prison?  According to the prison director, the answer was “Cell Phones”.  According to prison records, six of these seven inmates had been punished in the past for possessing an illegal cell phone inside of the prison. 

Add these phones to the mound of over four thousand cell phones confiscated in South Carolina prisons last year and we start to recognize the scope of the contraband prison cell phone problem.  Cell phones in prisons are used to run criminal enterprises, facilitate the commission of violent crimes, and impede law enforcement efforts.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Brian Stirling argues that the main reason incidents like this happen is because the cell signals surrounding the prison are not being jammed by the FCC.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recognizes that there is an epidemic proliferation of illicit cellphones throughout the entire nation’s prison system, and wants to help fight the problem, but the FCC is standing firm that widespread jamming of the cell phone signals inside of prisons is both dangerous and illegal. According to the FCC, these jammers will most probably jam legitimate use of cell phones outside the prison walls.  Powerful cellular jamming energy simply can’t be contained only within the walls of a prison.  The RF jamming energy would bleed out and interfere with normal cell phone usage a far distance around the prison including blocking 9-1-1 emergency communications.  Additionally, FCC states that cell phone jamming would impact the efforts by first responders and other emergency responders during critical emergencies.  It is also very likely that these powerful jammers would jam the police and firefighter frequencies which are ‘close’ to cell phone frequencies.

In addition to being dangerous and illegal, jammers are also more expensive than other technologies. They require extensive engineering design to accommodate the various distinct building features to provide effective coverage, and continued maintenance and monitoring, as well as distributed antenna engineering, cabling, and secure housing to prevent tampering.

The Cell Trax system from Cell Detect addresses the shortcomings of prison jammers by offering a secure, automated system, providing real time information and at a fraction of the cost of other technologies. The Cell Trax system consists of a small lightweight bracelet securely attached to each inmate’s ankle with multiple levels of tamper detection.  The detectors will always be active, always be attached to the prisoner, and always be looking for near-field cellular signatures. Only cell phones being held by the inmate, or very near the inmate, will be detected. When a cellular device is detected, the bracelet will immediately report the inmate’s identity to a cloud-based computer, which processes the alert and notifies officers in real-time.  Once the cell phone has been detected, the bracelet can optionally emit a low-power, short burst, micro-jamming signal precisely timed to prevent the specific illicit cellular device from receiving responses from the tower, effectively rendering the device inoperable.

For more information contact: David Segal at dsegal@celldetect.com