Securus Technologies, one of the nation’s leading providers of prison security systems, has been slowly deploying the first iterations of its Wireless Containment System, a hi-tech solution that enables corrections officers to block unauthorized cellular calls within the nation’s prisons. The system has been years in the making, with Securus having to receive special waivers from the Federal Communications Commission in order to allow the system to operate, on a trial basis, in a few of the nation’s more remote carceral facilities.
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The Wireless Containment System’s strength has turned out to be one of its weaknesses. The system is a straightforwards adaptation of military-grade technology that was used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. First developed to intercept insurgent communications over cellular networks, the system quickly proved itself in battle, helping U.S. troops to intercept enemy communications and pinpoint their locations in ways that were never before possible.
But the system had some serious drawbacks for any attempt at creating a civilian application based on it. It operated by spoofing the signals from network relay towers, tricking all cellular devices within its range of operation into thinking that they were communicating with the nearest tower when, in fact, their calls were being routed through the interception system. The problem was with how effective the system was. Within a radius of up to five miles, the system would attract the signals of all cellular devices, causing them to automatically route their calls through it.
In creating the civilian version, Securus needed to demonstrate that its Wireless Containment System would not interfere with legitimate phone calls taking place outside of the prisons where it is deployed. The company has been able to do this, at least to some extent. With a few kinks left to work out, the system has only been approved for deployment at some of the more remote prison locations. However, Securus believes that all of the problems with interference will be worked out by the middle of next year, opening the way for nationwide deployment of the WCS.
Where it has been installed, the Wireless Containment System has proven to be nearly 100-percent effective in blocking all unauthorized cellular calls. It has also enabled officers to detect the location of all contraband cellular devices within the prisons where it is operational, allowing for the near total confiscation of unauthorized cell phones.
These are very good initial results for a system that has only been in existence for a couple years. Securus had expedited the development of it due to the ongoing threat posed by the ever-increasing number of cell phones in prisons. So far, things are looking quite good for the future of the WCS.