Technology could help fight cell phone use in AL prisons - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Technology could help fight cell phone use in AL prisons

Prisoners using cell phones is a well-known problem to the Alabama Department of Corrections and other prison systems. (Source: WSFA 12 News File Video) Prisoners using cell phones is a well-known problem to the Alabama Department of Corrections and other prison systems. (Source: WSFA 12 News File Video)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

A convicted murderer was recently caught using a cell phone to live stream from an Alabama prison. The victim's family was outraged and called on the Alabama Department of Corrections to crack down on contraband cell phones.

Prisoners using cell phones is a well-known problem to the Alabama Department of Corrections and other prison systems.

"Things like this cause needless and unnecessary anguish for the victims. That's one of the many reasons why cell phones are absolutely prohibited," said ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. "In addition, our inmates can use cell phones to facilitate other types of illegal activity. So those things make cell phones one of the biggest challenges we have in the department."

Dunn wants to use technology to fight against the illegal use of phones by inmates.

"We are looking at investing in technologies that would help us not only detect a cell phone signal but also to defeat the signal if one is found," Dunn said.

One form of technology is called a managed access system or MAS. It can prevent contraband cell phones from sending and receiving calls, text messages and data.

We're told MAS provides significant savings by reducing physical searches for cell phones, investigations into cell phones, and crimes being conducted or coordinated by use of cell phones.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections was the first to implement the technology in the country in 2010. We reached out to MDOC to hear how it's working.

Officials tell us they have captured more than 8 million transmissions at the initial facility, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, and more than 4 million at the secondary facility, the South Mississippi Correctional Facility. They have also seen a great reduction in the number of confiscated cell phones. Leaders do add, however, there is no such thing as a cell phone free prison.

The estimated cost for the management access system is $1 million per facility. If funding were available, DOC would install the system in all high and medium custody level correctional facilities, a total of 13 to 15. Dunn has addressed the cell phone issues with the state budget committee and the need for funding so the department can invest in it.

Here's more information on management access systems from the Mississippi Department of Corrections:

  • Managed Access Solutions (MAS) is a solution which allows correctional facility representatives to effectively control contraband cell phones without impacting legitimate wireless communications within the designated areas of a prison or government facility.
  • Managed Access Solutions (MAS) is a combination of a specially managed cellular telephone system network and a tightly controlled Distributed Antenna System (DAS).
  • The MAS is capable of 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies and protocols used by US Wireless cellphone carriers.
  • The solution manages the mobile devices and applies policy rules determined by the corrections administrators.
  • MAS provides corrections an automated solution which fully manages all cellular telephone access 24/7-365 days a year with minimal resources MAS offers full control of the solution both locally and remotely.
  • MAS is monitored from Network Operations Center 24/7 -365 days a year and provides complete service and support Offers a variety of funding solutions to accelerate MAS deployments.

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