This report discusses the strategies prison and jail administrators have implemented to interdict inmate contraband cell phone use.
Contraband is any material or item that is unauthorized by the prison or jail and poses a threat to the safety, security, or good of an institution. Of the various types of contraband found in prisons and jails, cellphones have become a particular concern for administrators, with an average of 31 devices recovered per person based on a 2018 survey. Incarcerated people have used cell phones to communicate with criminals and organize illicit activity inside and outside correctional facilities. Inmates can obtain cell phones by having them thrown over prison or jail fences and through correctional staff, who will supply inmates phones for money. The latter activity is fueled by correctional officer low pay, loose supervision, and poor recruitment standards for officers. Strategies for countering the introduction of cell phones into prisons and jails include identification of phone location and confiscation through technologies. This report lists the names and features of key contraband wireless device interdiction technologies. There are several wireless interdiction technologies whose primary function is to detect contraband cell phones. Despite the widespread use in jails and prisons of the technologies that detect and confiscate cell phones used by inmates, there has been little empirical research on their effectiveness, and officials do not yet know what returns they can expect on their investments of resources and staff. Thus, there is a critical need for correctional agencies to collect more data and partner with researchers to better understand the degree to which these technologies can prevent the use of illicit cell phones and thereby prevent harm to people inside and outside jails and prisons.