Baltimore Installs Technology to Prohibit Cell Phone Access

BALTIMORE — A new technology installed at the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) will crack down on contraband cell phone use at the facility. Calls are instantly analyzed and any unauthorized phone is simply blocked, although 911 calls will still go through.

Hanover, Md.-based Tecore Networks created the Intelligent Network Access Controller (iNAC) Managed Access solution. The iNAC technology prohibits access of contraband cell phones to commercial networks for voice calls, text messaging and Internet services within the facility, while approved users are automatically redirected to the commercial service operator.

The BCDC has had several issues with illegal cell phone use inside the detention facility, and authorities have said Black Guerrilla Family leader Tavon White used them to direct a contraband smuggling scheme, transfer payments and alert associates of planned searches. Governor Martin O’Malley announced last year that he planned on creating specific cell phone legislation after facing national criticism when more than a dozen correctional officers and multiple inmates involved in the Black Guerrilla Family were indicted on charges ranging from money laundering to drug trafficking.

“Contraband cell phone use by inmates represents a clear danger to the citizens of Maryland. We commend Governor O’Malley and the state of Maryland for responding to this threat by being the first state to successfully deploy a comprehensive managed access solution to a facility in a densely populated urban area,” said Harry Lewis, Vice President Sales of Tecore Networks, in a statement. “Our success at both facilities could not have been achieved without the cooperation and support of the [Federal Communications Commission] and the six national cellular network operators."

While the new technology is meant to block unwanted calls to the facility, an article in The Baltimore Sun reported that the technology may be blocking calls in surrounding areas as well. The article stated that three people said calls they made when driving near the jail were interrupted with a recording that said they were using an unauthorized or illegal device. Since the cell phone users in the surrounding areas reported the technology malfunction, Tecore did a sweep of the facility and found no issues with the technology, according to The Baltimore Sun.

The FCC has banned the use of cell phone jamming technology except in federal facilities; however, Tecore officials said their technology still allows authorized users to place calls and is therefore not a blanket jam.