In California, the prison phone service provider paid for the new equipment because of massive lost revenue from unused pay phones, and the new technology supposedly has turned that dynamic around:
Efforts to curb cellphone smuggling into prisons have come up short, even though the state has spent millions of dollars on screening devices, surveillance cameras, detection devices and even phone-sniffing dogs.
[TDCJ spokesman Jason] Clark said Texas prison employees last year seized 904 cellphones in prisons or headed there, down from 1,480 three years ago. Prison officials attribute the decline to $60 million in security upgrades.
By contrast, California last year confiscated 15,000 cellphones at its 33 prisons. That's up from just 1,200 five years ago, according to officials.
Dana Simas, an information officer for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that under a new contract, Global Tel Link has agreed to spend as much as $35 million to install new equipment at each prison within the next three years. The first California unit is to get the gear by October, she said.
The company will pay all costs, Simas said, because it will get the revenue from the pay phones inside prisons that will once again be in demand.
The way the new system works: Each prison will get its own cell tower that will allow prison officials to control all incoming and outgoing calls. All others will not go through.
"After this system goes in, smuggled cellphones will be nothing more than glorified paperweights," Simas said. "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 cellphones."