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Micro-Jamming Can Combat Contraband Cell Phone Criminal Threats

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has released a report detailing the results of its micro-jamming technology test conducted on January 17, 2018, at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Maryland.

Test data showed that the micro-jamming signal interfered with commercial wireless signals inside the cells, meaning that if cell phones were used inside the cells, they would not work. However, at 20 feet and 100 feet outside the cells, the micro-jammer signal did not interfere with commercial wireless signals.

Department officers present during the January 17, 2018 test reported that while their cell phone signals were blocked inside the cells, their phones still worked when they stood a few feet from the cell windows.

"These encouraging test results mark a step forward in our efforts to combat the security threat posed by contraband cell phones," said Beth Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy. "The results show that this micro-jamming technology has the potential to have a localized impact. This is an encouraging sign that we are closer to solutions that make our communities safer and help prevent the continuation of criminal activity within prisons."

The data in the report will be used by the BOP and the Department to understand the effectiveness of micro-jamming, further evaluate jamming technology, and develop strategic planning recommendations.

Contraband cell phones continue to be a correctional security and public safety concern for the Bureau of Prisons and state and local correctional institutions. Across the country, inmates use contraband cell phones to direct gang activity, operate criminal enterprises, distribute child pornography, intimidate witnesses, and facilitate the commission of violent crimes. "This test is just one part of our ongoing efforts to disrupt and disable dangerous contraband cell phones in federal and state prisons," said Assistant Attorney General Williams.

The Bureau of Prisons will continue to evaluate cell phone detection and blocking technologies and work with federal partners and Congress to find cost-effective options to combat this threat to prisons and public safety. The agency does not endorse any specific vendor or product.

Carr Pushes for Federal Legislation to Combat Contraband Cell Phones in Prisons

ATLANTA, Ga. – Attorney General Chris Carr and 21 other attorneys general are urging congressional leaders to pass legislation that would allow states to implement cell phone jammer systems in correctional institutions. Currently, federal law prohibits the use of jamming technology, including jamming cell phones. Meanwhile, prisons across the country are using contraband cell phones with no way to stop them.

“Cell phones in the hands of criminals are an ongoing safety concern, not only for Georgia, but for correctional institutions across the country,” said GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver. “We appreciate Attorney General Carr’s support in finding a solution to this problem, which is critical to our commitment to public safety.”

As of January 1, 2023, the GDC has conducted 126 full facility searches and seized more than 23,000 contraband items. Last year alone, 8,074 contraband cell phones were seized.

In a letter sent on January 25, 2023, the Attorney General outlined the national challenges associated with contraband cell phones.

The letter reads: “The use of contraband cell phones by inmates is one of the most serious issues facing prison administrators today. Inmates use contraband cell phones to organize murders, riots, drug trafficking, fraud, etc. By using contraband cell phones, inmates can easily continue their criminal activities inside prison.”

Previously, Congress has introduced several bills to address this issue, including H.R. 1954 in the 116th Congress and H.R. 864 and S. 4699 in the 117th Congress. However, these bills have not made any progress and have never received a vote.

on July 4 at 5:37

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