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Efficacy of Managed Access Systems to Intercept Calls from Contraband Cell Phones in California Prisons

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2012
78 pages
This study examined technological approaches for preventing the use of contraband cell phones in prisons.
Findings show that contraband cell phones in prisons are a growing State and national security issue; there is inconsistent screening at State prisons; there is a void to existing and evolving complexities of signal capture at prisons; Managed Access Systems (MAS) technology is not yet proven for prison environment; MAS efficacy protocols is not yet fully or reliably identified the size of the contraband cell phone problem or a mechanism to determine the efficacy of a MAS when deployed; and to evaluate the effectiveness of an installed MAS, baseline benchmarks needed. Contraband cell phones are being smuggled into California State prisons in large numbers. According to the prisoners that the project team interviewed, the cell phones are used, in large part, for communications with inmate family members and friends or for entertainment (e.g., gaming or videos). However, the use of these contraband cell phones also has numerous negative effects as reported by recent reports from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Department of Commerce, and several independent State corrections departments. These negative effects include illegal activities such as drug deals, gang operations, victim harassment and instructions for "hits." There are currently no prisons anywhere in the United States using a fully functional managed access system to control cell phone use.