There can be no doubt that the revolution in technology that has taken place over the last 30 years has had major impacts in almost every field of endeavor. This has even been true in the nation’s prison system, where technologies have been successfully employed to improve the safety and security of inmates, guards and the public.
But technology has also proved to be a double-edged sword for those charged with keeping America’s jails and prisons safe. The quick spread of powerful computational devices has meant that prisons have needed to be ever-vigilant of inmates acquiring access to the means of further committing crimes even as they are carrying out long terms of incarceration in high-security complexes. And nowhere has this been made clearer than in the case of illegal cellular devices.
Contraband cellphones first started becoming a major problem throughout the nation’s carceral institutions in the early 2000s. It was around that time that both the price and size of cellphones dropped to such low levels that anyone could afford a cellphone, and they could hide one almost anywhere. These developments led to a flood of illegal cellular devices throughout the nation’s prisons and jails. While the majority of these phones were simply used to circumvent prison communications systems, a threat to institutional safety and security, the real problem arose when the illegal phones found their way into the hands of dangerous and sophisticated leadership of prison gangs. This posed an often-existential threat to the institutions and presented major risks for the safety and security of the general public.
It didn’t take long for gang leaders, who represent some of the most violent and dangerous inmates in the nation, to begin using the phones to wreak mayhem. Witnesses in high-profile cases were often intimidated into not testifying. Prosecutors were threatened and prison employees were even murdered. The gangs were able to carry our these nefarious ends by their highly organized, hierarchic structure, which is often closely modeled after actual military operations. Prison gangs often have the majority of their membership on the outside. But these ex-cons are still sworn to loyalty, carrying out any orders that they receive from leadership. This effective command-and-control structure means that gang leaders with access to effective communications, like that provided by cellphones, can effectively nullify their incarceration, being able to carry out the most heinous and violent crimes just as if they were free to walk the streets.
Now, Securus Technologies has begun the rollout of its Wireless Containment System. The WCS has proven itself capable of nearly completely shutting down all illegal cellular calls taking place within prisons where it is installed. The WCS promises to be a game-changer in the fight against contraband phones, permanently removing one of prison gangs’ biggest tools of mayhem.