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Illegal prison phone calls could soon be 'jammed'

Mobile phone jamming technology will be introduced at the Alexander Maconochie Centre if a NSW trial is successful.

Phones are banned in jails across Australia, but ACT Corrections Minister Chris Bourke said they were being smuggled in and AMC staff have found and confiscated two phones in the past 12 months.

Prison inmates argue mobile phones helped them keep in touch with family members, but unscrupulous use to organise criminal activity is considered too big a risk.

At the moment calls made and text messages sent from inside the AMC are monitored.

"We do have phone detection devices that are able to detect and record signals of radio waves and mobile phones being used, it can tell us the type of phone being used, it can determine whether incoming or outgoing calls and text messages are being made and we use it to gather intelligence," Dr Bourke said.

He refused to say how often the technology was used.

"Those are the kind of operational details I shouldn't be telling you," he said.

He said the new technology could provide a back up to screening measures and the phone detection device already used in the AMC.

"We don't use mobile phone jamming technology in prisons now ...we actually discussed it at the last corrections ministers conference in Adelaide and I was pleased to hear about the kind of progress that is being made," he said.

Liberal corrections spokesman Jeremy Hanson has supported the move but slammed the government for taking so long to consider and introduce it.

"This is the sort of practical measure that should be implemented at the jail," Mr Hanson said.

"Instead, ACT Labor's spent the past four years pushing a needle exchange, against the wishes of corrections officers, and has failed when it comes to basic prison management."

New South Wales Corrective Services will start a trial of phone jamming technology at Lithgow prison by early 2013.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General, Greg Smith, said the department was finalising the technical aspects of the trial.

"The department is seeking an Exemption Determination from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the granting of the decision is a matter for ACMA," she said.

Dr Bourke said he was would watch the outcome of the trial and if it was successful jamming technology would be used in the AMC.

"This is a project that has been worked on for some time in other jurisdictions and we are jointly working together to see how it can be made feasible ... I'd be wanting to know what the range was because you wouldn't want people driving on the road out the front phones jammed. That would be a nuisance to people."

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