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Putting an End to Cell Phone Prison Contraband with Signal Detectors

With legislation firmly in place to put an end to illegal prison contraband like cell phones, cell phone jammers and signal detectors are aiding in increased public safety.

If you are convicted of a crime, you go to prison. Prison is supposed to deprive you of rights and privileges. You eat, sleep and work on a rigid schedule.

You don’t get contact with the outside world.

Unless you manage to connect with some prison contraband. Some contraband sounds harmless- junk food, makeup, cigarettes. But cell phones are a huge problem. For example:

Control of prison contraband is a priority. Tools to stop outside communication are available. Read on to learn more.

Prison Contraband of the Most Dangerous Kind

Weapons, drugs, money and more are dangerous and illicit behind bars. However, a mobile device and mini-computer that allows connection to accomplices outside the walls does the most damage. With it, criminals continue to do business and function just as they would outside of prison.

A cell phone allows coordination and organization of almost all other contraband. It’s small and easily hidden. Thanks to modern technology, there are few places it can’t reach.

Smuggling phones to inmates involves complicit guards, attorneys or other more clever ruses. Some smugglers resort to drones or versions of a file baked into a birthday cake. No matter the effort to stop phones from entering prison, a few get through.

A Major Problem 

Security experts would call cell phone proliferation an epidemic. In South Carolina, prison officials discovered and seized one phone for every three inmates. In Oklahoma, every six prisoners yielded and an illicit phone.

With some 2.4 MILLION people locked up around the country, that is anywhere from 400,000 to 800,000 illicit phones in the hands of criminals. Phones allow inmates to use social media, conduct business, access banks and more.

It isn’t only a U.S. problem. At least 15,000 mobile phones or SIM cards were confiscated in English and Welsh prisons. To combat the onslaught, officials scramble or block cell phone signals

Some prisons use fake cell networks to grab the signals then track and block communications. “Grabbing” allows legitimate cell phones and SIM cards access while blocking others. It is expensive and limited to older technology.

Blocking Signals Doesn’t End Cell Phone Use

Jamming cell signals isn’t foolproof. Cell phone jammers also have a human component. Blocked signals affect legit phones as well as the contraband ones. Mobile reception is blocked entirely, jamming blocks all phones and SIM cards within the jammer’s reach. 

Guards and other staff can “accidentally” cut the power or otherwise disable jammers. Even short outages allow phones to connect to the outside world.

A cell phone used for its computer functions works just fine without a signal. A smartphone works great as a small computer and data storage device. Connection to Wi-fi allows voice calls, data transfer, and ubiquitous social media.

Inmates use devices to record messages and videos, then move the phone or the SIM card around. Accomplices pass the data and messages to the outside or to prisoners in other parts of the facility.  

Additional precautions in corrections facilities should include the use of drone jammers for security as well.

A Multi-Layer Approach to Thwart Contraband

Invent a new method to block communication and contraband, and people will find a way around it. A mixed approach works best and keeps inmates guessing. It also helps avoid “help” from inside sources, since different people perform different tasks.

Limit contraband entry. Visible features like metal detectors and x-ray equipment deter smuggling. Portable detection units, random screens, and highly trained staff also make a dent in the problem.

For the more “clever” contraband smugglers, high fences and nets, drone jammers, shakedowns, etc. remove additional units. Of particular use is a signal detector. It locates cell, video, and audio transmissions to allow swift removal.

For phones that manage to slip through, cell signal jamming is useful. Overlapping transmitters can prevent outages. Repeated signal detection and search on exit detects outgoing messages.

How Does Signal Detection Work?

A high sensitivity detector doesn’t interfere with signals but specifically locates the signal source. A broad range of detection is used to locate cell signals, wireless audio, and video taps. The frequency range is 25MHz to 6000MHz. 

Pinpointing the signal allows prison officials to remove the phone the minute it is switched on. Signal detection units are small and portable. Frequent regular and random use prevents predictable communication.

People Make the Difference

People are the most important success factor for prison contraband control. All the training, technology and cutting-edge tactics fail if the staff ignores them. The human factor is both the weakest and strongest point in any facility security system.

Highly qualified, highly trained and highly motivated officials and staff make a difference. Regular refresher courses with technology deployment keep learning fresh. Prompt attention to HR issues reduces the temptation for corruption.

Nothing substitutes for human ingenuity. As fast as prisoners innovate, staff can create countermeasures. Tools like detectors and jammers in the right hands eliminate a number of phones.

Use All the Tools at Your Disposal

Criminals never stop their attempts to smuggle in mobile phones and other prison contraband. Their creativity and drive keep prisons around the world on their toes. There no single solution to cut off unauthorized communication.  

The ideal way to limit and control contraband is an approach to security that encompasses the entire facility. A multi-layer strategy uses state of the art tech and traditional methods. It encompasses the human element, too.  

High-quality training, high motivation, and a disciplined approach are the ideal ways to disrupt prison contraband.  Tech tools to limit entry, block signals and detect hidden mobile phone signals are only part of the equation. 

Attacking the problem from inside and out is the most effective way to maintain order, security, and safety for prisoners, staff and the public– inside and outside prison. To learn more about tech tools at your disposal, contact us today. 



    In February 2014, the government of Honduras enacted legislation mandating that the cellular providers in Honduras block their own signals at the nine national prisons throughout the country, in order to eliminate the extortion and kidnapping schemes that were being run by inmates within the prisons.

    1. Blog Administrator

      We’ve seen this with many countries, especially in South and Central America, however not all facilities are compliant with their national regulations.

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