GAO releases report on inmate cell phone contraband- pushes for better evaluation methods

Deltek Sr. Analyst Jeff Webster reports.

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “Bureau of Prisons (BOP) – Improved Evaluations and Increased Coordination Could Improve Cell Phone Detection.” This report detailed the nation’s current state of cellular telephone detection and provided recommendations to curb this type of contraband in prisons. The GAO gathered information from eight states currently working to detect and deter cell phone contraband, including California, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Texas.

The total number of cell phones confiscated from these eight states in 2010 was more than 22,000; 10,000 of which were from California prisons alone. This is nearly a 30 percent increase from 2009. The GAO also found that minimum security institutions (prison camps) were more likely to see cell phone contraband (nearly 77 percent of all contraband found), while higher level security institutions saw only 23 percent of the total. To combat this, the BOP and the eight states have all taken steps to deter cell phone contraband. Currently, there are three options for prisons to test: jamming (currently illegal according to the Communications Act of 1934), managed access, and detection. However, the BOP has not developed evaluation plans to measure the success or failure of these systems. According to the report, there are some institutions that are more eager than others to test this new technology. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of each technology according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

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