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Illegal prison phone calls could soon be 'jammed'

Date

Ewa Kretowicz

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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."

8 comments so far

  • ''Against the wishes of corrections officers" Perhaps it should be said that corrections officers are there to to do a job as directed, not decide policy. Deciding policy is something 'corrections officers' should not be involved in. Too many deaths in custody already...

    Commenter
    Hump
    Location
    vic
    Date and time
    September 19, 2012, 10:42AM
    • You serious hump? Policy and procedures are determined best by those people on the ground. The corrections officers would know what works and what does not better then some bureaucrats that have never seen a prision or had to deal with prisoners.

      Commenter
      CC
      Location
      Syd
      Date and time
      September 19, 2012, 1:47PM
    • Hump are you joking?
      If you have someone like Emperor Nero at the helm playing his fiddle while Rome burns, you are ok with this?

      To me the opinions of one worker "in the field" is worth a dozen of those who don't know how to do the job. Too often I see decisions impacting front line workers made by people who have no idea what the front line workers are actually doing.

      I say, give them the tools they require to do their job. Set metrics on how to measure their performance. Stand back and let them do their job.

      Commenter
      MitchMorgan
      Location
      Cronulla
      Date and time
      September 19, 2012, 9:01PM
  • Good one Dr Bourke, ... "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." & I thought it was illegal, are you awake at all?

    Commenter
    Deutsch
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    September 19, 2012, 12:21PM
    • Bugger the jails, I want this at home to block my teenagers' phones after bedtime!!! :D

      Commenter
      ChrisH
      Location
      Vic
      Date and time
      September 19, 2012, 1:20PM
      • Well that is a laugh. I worked for a company that tried to sell mobile phone detection technology to the AMC before it was built so that they could pick up illegal mobile phones and the response back from them was that they don't need it as that goes against human rights and prisoners can just use the fixed phones that they have in the jail.

        Somebody should also let them know that the range of the jammer is affected by the temp and density of the air so it's hard to manage.....

        Commenter
        Mark
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        September 19, 2012, 1:59PM
        • I do outreach in jails and it's already hard enough to provide a service to my clients without jamming technology. Mobile phones are the only way I can call creditors without that ridiculous 12 minute limit fixed prison phones have. Have you ever tried to call Centrelink with only 12 minutes? Ridiculous. You'd never even talk to a person.

          Commenter
          Asynca
          Date and time
          September 20, 2012, 8:17AM
          • We don't already do this????

            Commenter
            Dolly
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            September 20, 2012, 8:52AM

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