- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Justice Department plans to deploy “micro-jamming” technology designed to disrupt cellphone service as a growing number of mobile devices are found smuggled into federal prisons.

Corrections officials confiscated 5,116 contraband cellphones from federal inmates in 2016, and preliminary figures from 2017 indicate that number is on the rise, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a conference Monday, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

“Cellphones are used to run criminal enterprises, facilitate the commission of violent crimes and thwart law enforcement,” creating “a major safety issue” currently in the crosshairs of the federal Bureau of Prisons,” Mr. Rosenstein told attendees.

“The Department of Justice now supports regulatory changes that will make it easier to deploy cellphone jamming and interdiction technologies,” he said. “On January 17, BOP will test micro-jamming and evaluate whether we can use that new technology in prisons without disrupting services in the surrounding area.”

The scheduled micro-jamming test follows months of pleas from members of Congress and other officials concerned with the increase in contraband cellphones permeating the federal prison system. More than 50 members of the U.S. House and Senate wrote the Federal Commissions Commission last year seeking permission to jam cell signals, calling the threat posed by smuggled phones “an issue of critical importance.”

“I share your concerns about the proliferation of contraband wireless devices in prisons and the potentially devastating implications for public safety,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai subsequently responded. “We continue our efforts to push for even better procedures and solutions for this very serious problem.”

The BOP oversees about 185,000 inmates incarcerated across 122 federal prisons, 11 private prisons and over 200 other facilities.

In July, an inmate incarcerated in South Carolina used a smuggled cellphone to arrange for the delivery of wire cutters subsequently used to escape from prison. He was located several days later and taken back into custody.

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