LOS ANGELES — California and Texas may be considered opposites on the political spectrum, but the two states do have the same philosophy when it comes to cell phones in state prisons.
California got the ball rolling when Global Tel Link agreed to pay millions to install technology in state prisons to block web searches, text messages and phone calls by inmates using smuggled phones.
Texas also saw a problem with its inmates smuggling phones into prison and has recently confirmed working with CenturyLink, a private company that operates pay phones inside Texas’ 111 state prisons, to evaluate installing a similar system in Texas.
“The system would be a managed-access system and does not jam cell phones,” said Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
“Managed access intercepts the outgoing calls and only allows calls from approved numbers. This is legal,” Clark said, noting that the Federal Communications Commission prohibits jamming.
Inmates’ access to cell phones in prison can have extreme consequences. Some inmates have used cell phones to run criminal enterprises from behind bars and organize assaults on guards and intimidate witnesses, California prison officials said.
“This groundbreaking and momentous technology will enable [the prison system] to crack down on the potentially dangerous communications by inmates,” said Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matt Cate.
In 2011, California prison guards confiscated more than 15,000 contraband phones. In the same year, Texas prison officials seized 904 cell phones.
The first prison in California is expected to receive Global Tel*Link’s technology by October 2012, according to Dana Simas, information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
When the system is installed, each prison will get its own cell tower that will allow prison officials to control all incoming and outgoing calls. All other calls will not go through within the confines of the prison.
“After this system goes in, smuggled cell phones will be nothing more than glorified paperweights,” said Simas. “A couple of years ago, there were long lines at the pay phones — hours long. By this year, no one was using them, there were so many smuggled cell phones.”