BOP Conducts Test of Cellphone Jamming Technology

Contraband cellphones are a safety and security concern both for the public and for correctional facilities nationwide, according to the bureau, which reported contraband cellphones have been used by incarcerated inmates to run criminal enterprises, distribute child pornography, and facilitate the commission of violent crimes.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons recently conducted a pilot test of micro-jamming technology at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, S.C. The test was the first collaboration of this kind in a state corrections facility and was done to determine whether micro-jamming could prevent wireless communication by inmates using contraband cellphones in a housing unit. Two earlier tests took place at a federal corrections facility in Cumberland, Md.

Contraband cellphones are a safety and security concern both for the public and for correctional facilities nationwide, according to the bureau, which reported contraband cellphones have been used by incarcerated inmates to run criminal enterprises, distribute child pornography, and facilitate the commission of violent crimes. South Carolina officials attributed an April 15, 2018, prison riot partly to contraband cellphones, for example.

"While I served as United States Attorney of Maryland, my office prosecuted an inmate who used a smuggled cellphone to order the murder of an innocent witness," U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said. "Contraband cellphones in correctional facilities pose a grave danger. We stand ready to help our state and local partners in their efforts to prevent inmates from using contraband cell phones in jails and prisons."

"Offenders should not be able to continue to threaten the public from behind bars. Because the majority of our country's inmates are housed in state facilities, it is crucial that we work with our state and local partners to test and determine what solutions work best," said Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams.

Currently, only federal agencies can obtain authorization to jam the public airwaves -- state and local prisons cannot. The test was a joint operation by BOP and the South Carolina Department of Corrections and was authorized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and coordinated with the Federal Communications Commission. Two NTIA engineers attended the test and performed measurements of the micro-jamming equipment's radio emissions. After the test is complete, NTIA will analyze the data and prepare a report.

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