Illegal cell phones are again on the rise in California prisons, state officials report.
“Contraband cell phone usage is a problem that CDCR takes very seriously,” the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation posted on the CDCR website. “Cell phone use by inmates poses a security risk by circumventing the monitoring processes in prison.”
Since 2006, the number of cell phones confiscated from inmates has increased, reaching a peak of 15,000 in 2011. The following year, the numbers dipped by 3,200 but have been on the rise ever since, according to CDCR statistics.
“In response to this problem, CDCR established a Warden’s Advisory Group (WAG) on Cell Phone Interdiction. WAG is charged with examining cell phone interdiction and related technologies,” the department reported.
In the first three months of 2014, there were 2,809 contraband cell phones confiscated from inmates in the prison system, CDCR reported.
CDCR reported that in 2011 is ran tests on Managed Access Systems (MAS) technology that interrupts contraband cell phone signals at two of its prisons. The CDCR reported it plans to have MAS installed “at all institutions by 2015.”
“Currently, 18 CDCR prisons have Managed Access System technology installed and in use,” said Terry Thornton, CDCR deputy press secretary. “CDCR is not disclosing which prisons are using MAS technology for safety and security reasons.”
In March, the CDCR reported 40 illegal cell phones were confiscated at Pleasant Valley State Prison, along with drugs, after inmates inundated local law enforcement’s 911 emergency system with more than 400 calls. Officials said it was an attempt to bypass the current Managed Access System.
According to a 2012 KCRA television news report, Avenal State Prison was the first prison to install managed access.
With MAS, instead of receiving a dial tone, inmates are supposed to receive this pre-recorded message: “The cellular device that you are using at Avenal State Prison has been identified as contraband. It is illegal to possess.”
KCRA reported that Avenal prison staff using authorized cell phones have their numbers programmed into MAS to work. “All other cell phones inside the prison will be blocked.”
However, “blocking is not an accurate description, as blocking cellular signals is illegal. Managed access prevents the signal from unauthorized cell phones from accessing the carrier’s network,” said Deputy Press Secretary Terry Thorton, CDCR Press Office.http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Contraband-Cell-Phones/managed-access.html.”
The CDCR website defines managed access as a system that “deploys a secure cellular umbrella over a specified area” within a prison facility. MAS will either permit or deny access from wireless transmissions in that area.
“The Managed Access System technology
of today is not mature enough for
immediate large-scale deployments”
Thornton said, “CDCR is currently in Phase I” of MAS implementation. “The deployment schedule for Phase II sites has not been completed at this time, but CDCR expects to take 18 months to complete once work begins.”
In 2012, the California Council on Science and Technology released a 72-page report that said in part that “MAS technology (at that time was) not yet proven for prison environments.”
“The Managed Access System technology of today is not mature enough for immediate large-scale deployments, such as that proposed by CDCR at California’s 33 state prisons,” CCST reported. California has 34 prisons; however, at the time the report was written, 33 was correct.
“A detailed site survey and radio frequency study will need to be completed at each facility site where managed access would be deployed to ensure that no adverse impacts would be realized” on the public, the CDCR reported.