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Bureau of Prisons Tests Micro-Jamming Technology in Federal Prison to Prevent Contraband Cell Phones
Cumberland, Md.

On January 17, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), in collaboration with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission, conducted a test of micro-jamming technology at the Federal Correctional Institution at Cumberland, Maryland.  The test was conducted to determine if micro-jamming could prevent wireless communication by an inmate using a contraband device at the individual cell housing unit level. 

Prior to this test, the BOP had conducted a limited cellphone jamming demonstration with NTIA in 2010, at the same field site in Cumberland supporting NTIA’s congressionally-mandated study of cellphone interdiction technologies.  

As part of the Jan. 17 test, NTIA conducted an independent evaluation of micro-jamming technology to determine its efficacy and interference potential with Radio Frequency communications.  The BOP and NTIA will review the data and analysis results from both BOP’s and NTIA’s testing and develop recommendations for strategic planning and possible acquisition.

“Contraband cell phones in prisons pose a major and growing security threat to correctional officers, law enforcement officials, and the general public,” said Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.  “As criminals increase their technological capacity to further criminal activity from within prisons, we must also explore technologies to prevent this from happening.  This test is part of our ongoing efforts to find a solution.” 

Contraband cellphones have been an ongoing correctional security and public safety concern for the BOP as well as for state and local correctional agencies across the country.  Contraband phones are used to further ongoing criminal activity, including threats to public officials, intimidation of witnesses, and continuance of criminal enterprises.  

The BOP will continue to evaluate cell phone detection technologies and work with its federal partners and Congress to achieve cost-effective options to combat this threat to corrections and public safety.  The agency does not endorse any specific vendor or product. 

Press Release Number: 
18-51