24 September 2013

Australia’s first trial of mobile phone jamming in prison began today, in a major security initiative to shut down illicit phone use by inmates.


Minister for Justice Greg Smith SC and Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin today activated phone jamming technology at Lithgow Correctional Centre, launching a nine month trial on behalf of prison authorities across Australia.


“Today is an important step forward for corrections in Australia as we combat illicit phone use in prisons, which has become a significant concern for jurisdictions around the world,’’ Mr Smith said.


“Mobile phone possession in NSW prisons is a crime. Mobile phones pose a threat to the security of correctional centres and community safety as they are often used to facilitate crime outside prison walls.’’


Mr Severin said the jamming technology adds to a combination of measures Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) already uses to combat contraband phones, including security screening, intelligence gathering, and random and targeted searches by officers and K9s, including mobile phone sniffer dogs.”


“In the past five years, we have significantly stepped up efforts to seize and detect mobile phones in our centres and have removed hundreds of mobile phones and accessories from circulation – however inmates continue to try new and devious ways to obtain them.”


“We believe this jamming technology is the ultimate answer because even if an inmate does obtain a mobile phone, it will be worthless because it won’t work.’’


Dozens of antennas have now been installed inside Lithgow Correctional Centre to jam the channels that would normally transmit mobile phone signals.


Mr Smith said the antennas were adjusted so the jamming signal did not penetrate beyond the correctional centre’s boundaries and did not affect mobile phone customers in the community.


Service providers Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are cooperating with the trial and will monitor the results. The remote Lithgow Correctional Centre site was chosen for the trial as a precaution to reduce any possible impact on the operation of mobile signals near the prison.


The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has granted CSNSW an exemption from Australia’s Radiocommunications Act 1992, which makes it an offence to operate, supply or possess jamming devices, so the trial can proceed.


“We have conducted extensive planning with our project partners, consulted regularly with the local Lithgow community, and the effects of the jamming equipment will be constantly monitored and assessed,’’ Mr Severin said.


“We are confident that mobile phone use outside Lithgow Correctional Centre’s walls will not be affected. However if members of the public do experience any issues with their phones near the Centre they should first contact their mobile service provider which will be best placed to determine the reason. Details of the time and location of any issue will assist the provider’s investigations.”


“If providers believe an issue may be related to the jammer they will contact Corrective Services NSW which will immediately investigate to resolve the issue.’’


Corrective Services NSW has also established a toll-free number for public enquiries: 1800 526 637 or 1800 JAMMER .


Mr Smith said a consultant will evaluate the effectiveness of the technology used in the trial and report to CSNSW, ACMA and other states.


“The report will help inform the ACMA’s decision on whether it would be in the public interest to allow deployment of mobile phone jammers in correctional centres,” Mr Smith said.


Corrective Services NSW expects to invest about $900,000 for materials and equipment, installation, monitoring, technical advice and evaluation. A further $160,000 was contributed by NSW and all other states and territories equally to undertake preparation, including initial design and testing of technology.


More information can be found at www.correctiveservices.nsw.gov.au and www.acma.gov.au and the fact sheet below.


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