Since the early 2000s, the proliferation of cheap and compact cellular telephones has caused a flood of illegal communications devices throughout the nation’s prison system. While something as quotidian as a cellphone may appear benign enough, when these devices fall into the hands of dangerous prison gangs, they can wreak havoc on the safety of the nation’s carceral institutions and pose a serious threat to the public safety.
The problem of contraband cellphones escalated throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s. Then, Securus Technologies, one of the most important providers of prison security services and systems in the United States, finally developed a breakthrough technology that was able to effectively combat the scourge of illegal cellular devices for the first time.
Known as the Wireless Containment System, the device is able to completely block all cellular calls being placed from within its operating range. The technology is able to spoof cell towers, tricking phones into thinking that they are connecting to the cellular network when, instead, they are connecting directly to the WCS. The operator is then given an option to outright block the call or to allow it to be put through normally to the network. If the operator chooses this last option, they will be able to listen in on the entire call.
Despite the gravity of the problems caused by the proliferation of contraband phones throughout the nation’s jails and prisons, at first, the Wireless Containment System was not granted full operational approval by the FCC. Incredible as it may sound, in trial runs, the system actually proved to be too effective. There was evidence that the system would actually interfere with legitimate cellular communications, shutting those down as well, unless the Wireless Containment System was programmed at precisely the right power level. The latest generation of the machines have been fitted with sophisticated upgrades using GPS-based mapping systems that allow the Wireless Containment System to only block calls originating from within prison property.
After further trial runs, the FCC determined that the improvements were working as intended. The Wireless Containment System was thus given the stamp of approval for full deployment throughout the country even in prisons located in close proximity to densely populated areas.
Securus estimates that the system will soon be deployed to more than half of the nation’s prisons. The company has reported that the success rate at blocking phone calls originating from unauthorized devices has neared 100 percent throughout all of the jails and prisons where it has been installed. The Wireless Containment System is also able to allow corrections staff to electronically home in on any contraband phone that is turned on.
WCS technology is a true game-changer in keeping America’s prisons safe amid rapidly advancing technology.