The state’s prison system is losing its battle to disrupt cell phone use by inmates in its 34 facilities, The Associated Press reported.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has so far failed in its attempt to block cellphone signals in the prisons, AP said. Because of rapid technological advances, the CDCR may have to shift gears and find new methods to combat illegal cell phone use by inmates.
“It’s been difficult to make sure the technology can handle those upgrades,” CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas told the AP, adding, “Whether we’re going to scrap it or whether we can find solutions to these issues, that will be determined later.”
CDCR reported in 2011 that it had run tests using Managed Access Systems (MAS) technology to interrupt contraband cell phone signals at two of its prisons. At that time there were plans to have MAS installed “at all institutions by 2015.”
, the leader in the prison phone industry, has the contract with CDCR to provide inmate calling service and MAS technology. Taxpayers, however, do not pay for its cost, according to the AP. The company “recoups its cost from the fees inmates pay…using (GTL) land lines.”
In 2014, Deputy CDCR Press Secretary Terry Thornton said, “Eighteen CDCR prisons have Managed Access System technology installed and in use.” But the prisons where MAS is operating was not disclosed because of “safety and security reasons,” she said.
AP reported the state installed MAS “to prevent unauthorized cell phone signals from reaching their destination.”
However, the technology used previously to carry cell phone traffic switched over to the new Long Term Evolution (LTE), 4G technology, which transmits voice calls over a wireless network, and the prisons’ system does not capture Wi-Fi transmissions, The AP reported.
The CDCR no longer plans to expand MAS technology in its remaining 16 prisons, the article noted.
GTL spokeswoman Megan Humphreys said in an email to the AP that the company cannot comment because it is currently in discussions with the CDCR.
In 2012, state legislators raised concern over whether GTL’s professed MAS technology would be able to keep pace with industry development.
Members of the state Senate asked the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) to analyze the issue of contraband cell phones and the viability of proposed technology to manage cell phone access in state prisons.
“As for the proposed MAS recently contracted for by the CDCR for managing cell phone access in prisons, our conclusions are clear: the technology shows promise, but it is not ready for deployment,” the CCST stated in a 2012 letter.
|“…we believe California must plan carefully
how best to manage the issue
of contraband cell phones in prisons…”|
The CCST said the preliminary testing conducted in California at the time was “extremely limited in scope and scale,” proving only a concept trial and not a full pilot program.
“Managed access as proposed will not do the job that the CDCR wants done,” a 71-page CCST study said.
“MAS is not the only technology that could be used,” the CCST wrote. “Several other technological options, including some that were identified during the development of this report, should be considered, tested and weighed before committing to a full investment in MAS.”
The CCST letter concluded, “…we believe California must plan carefully how best to manage the issue of contraband cell phones in prisons, and invest in research and development that will produce a system which meets the needs of the state through deployment of mature and tested technology.”
The AP reported that the CDCR has asserted that Global Tel-Link will be able to keep up with developing technology.
The number of cell phones confiscated in California state prisons has dropped, the AP reported. In 2011 there were about 15,000 phones confiscated. In 2015 there were less than 8,000 phones seized.