Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FCC has no authority to approve cell phone jammers

At yesterday's Senate Criminal Justice Committee hearing, legislators demanded that the Department of Criminal Justice seek Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to install cell phone jammers at Texas prison units. According to this AP article, though, the FCC has no such authority:
"We have no authority to even grant it if we thought it was worthwhile or something that was warranted," said Robert Kenny, a spokesman for the FCC. "It's likely going to take some level of action by Congress."
That news certainly casts a different light on the senators' conversation yesterday about eliminating cell phones in prison. I'm guessing Congress might support the jammer idea down the line, but it's not something, apparently, that could happen immediately.

In addition, reports AP, jamming cell phones could have unintended security consequences:

"You can prevent emergency calls if these jammers are allowed," said Joe Farren, spokesman for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group for the wireless industry. "You put signal jammers in, you interfere with critical communications, life and death."

That worry is shared by Zack Kendall, a security specialist for North Carolina's prison system, who said he doesn't know whether his prisons would take advantage of signal blocking because it could interfere with internal radio communications.

Sounds like jammers won't be the short-term fix legislators hoped for to TDCJ's cell phone smuggling epidemic.


Anonymous said...

Bounty is correct - they're INMATES, not hotel guests. There is no reason not to block cellular signals on prison grounds for the safety of correctional workers as well as the public at large. In this case public safety far outweighs this antiquated law that needs to be updated to keep up with the changing face of technology.

Inmates have forfeited certain rights by becoming convicted felons, and their calls, letters, and visits ARE monitored.

Anonymous said...

"There is no reason not to block cellular signals on prison grounds"

Except that it's against the law. Didn't you read the post?

This news is hilarious after Whitmire told TDCJ they should just call President Bush and get him to tell his FCC appointees to approve this. Except they can't. That guy doesn't have a clue.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 4:43, re: "Bounty is correct"

Who is Bounty?

Anonymous said...

This problem wouldn't have happened if Whitmire had an unlisted number.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"if Whitmire had an unlisted number."

The guy called his office. That said, once he did, Whitmire gave him his cell #.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that with all the resources at his disposal and being a lawyer to boot, Whitmire would have done his homework.

Anonymous said...

Whitmire don't need no stinking Congress or no damn FCC. He's the Chairman and he get's what he wants or heads roll.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but doest Texas ignore laws it doesnt like or agree with? I am sure the technology exists to make the jammers as sophisticated as necesarry to be effective in certain areas of a prison but not others.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me when a person's loved one is suffering a heart attack be it the CO or the inmate, safety should come first.

Anonymous said...

Sunray said:
"I am sure the technology exists to make the jammers as sophisticated as necesarry to be effective in certain areas of a prison but not others."

Actually they are available commercially, the target sales go to resturants, theaters and playhouses.
I'm not defending the use of blockers, only pointing it out.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

FWIW, I'll defend the use of blockers - I think it's a fine idea. My only point with this post was that it apparently can't be implemented immediately.

Steve-O' said...

Remember near the end of the movie: AMERICAN GANGSTER when Denzel Washington asks his lawyers to leave the room so he can talk to Russell Crowe 1 on 1 about what the state is gonna try to do to "Make Their Case"

He makes a great & very very over-looked point to the police officer who finally brought charges against him, as the whole police force did not think could be (OR EVEN SHOULD BE) done and asks, "Do you really think putting me behind bars is gonna stop anything? You think that's gonna change anything? Junkies steal for it, they lie for it, they do what they gotta do to get it! Putting Frank Lucas behind bars ain't gonna change a damn thing! However it don't bother me if you wanna wake up tomorrow to find your getting your head blown off w/ 12 gauge. I took care of Harlem, Harlem is gonna take care of me, you can believe that!"

Anyone else find it interesting much more than most movies where you root for the good guys THAT OVER 2/3rds of the Califonria Police Department was indited on taking bribes to look the other way while they did what they did!!!??

Before your gonna go fly off the handle (like you just got caught and/or knew just @ that moment your gig was no more), why don't you all think about this, DOES PUTTING 1 DRUG DEALER BEHIND BARS STOP ANY MOVEMENT/TRAFFICING OF ILLEGAL NARCOTICS IN THIS COUNTY??!

Over 85% of prisoners in Texas are in jail on drug charges which makes only 15% the concern to me, end of story.

Plus don't we have a Million, Trillion, Billion Dollar DEBT ON OUR ECONOMY?

So we spend an additional 69 Million/Trillion a year so thosse who chose to become police officers feel they are making a change to society... For ONLY 69 MILLION?

ISN'T THERE over 10,000 other places and entities we could be using YOUR TAX PAID/PAYING W/O YOU POSSIBLY KNOWING IT, instead of the way we ain't really changing nothing, but we feel as though we are!

On a side note I know 2 in prison currently from Texas:

1) BB has let me know that the drugs you find in prison are way more pure than anything sold on the streets, thus what does that say to you about the way we've been doing things?

2) Crime doesn't stop becuase someone is behind bars, in fact it's been stated (via crime/gun/shoot em up movies) that what you do and/or what you've set up for how you operate does't need you there at all to still be 100% fully working & operational!!!


In closing, the band FACE TO FACE released an independent album after switching back too, due to GETTING FUCKED BY A MAJOR LABEL

IGNORANCE IS BLISS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


P.S. As far as taking away phone priviles, how does that stop crime? Slow down crime, maybe. 45 min to 3 hours delyed delivedry time. You think that "Really Getting Em?"

I think the whole war is and has been a disgrace to our abilities to logically find a rational/real solution to any real solution!

Please read/study the work of L.E.A.P. -

Because they realized after 8 years of kicking in doors to college apartments, all they where doing was befriending, setting up & arresting college students!

Anyway, done w/ this however in closing I personally feel our own government has done more damage to too many now wasted lives because I GARANTEE YOU'LL DO BETTER, MAKE BETTER,m COME UP BETTER, COME UP BETTER, COME OUT OVER-ALL BETTER WORKIN STREETS AS OPPOSED w/ earning thosands a day compared to minimum wage!!!!!

RECOMMENDED READING: 1984 by Goerge OrWell


Anonymous said...

anon @ 1.05 am ~ do you really think for one moment that if anyone has a heart attack inside a TDCJ unit, everyone hunts around for a cell phone just to make the call for an ambulance? They DO have traditional phones as well.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question. Are these cell phone jammers pinpoint or are they large mallets? what I mean is, do they pinpoint one band frequency or do they attempt to hit most radio frequency bands? If so, then you will have issues with radios inside the prison. This will leave the guards in danger of not being able to call for help to fellow guards if their signals are jammed.

Anonymous said...


Policy Procedure people... or am I the only CO who gives a dern any more.

jdgalt said...

I can't speak to the legalities, but I can answer the tech questions.

Jamming transmitters indiscriminately blanket a radius of (some distance that depends on power level) around the jammer. It's not a perfect circle because objects such as cell bars and walls may interfere with either the cell phone signal or the jammer's noise, but the bottom line is that a jammer won't be selective -- it will block desired signals such as calls for help as well as undesired signals.

There are two other technical methods a prison could use, either one by itself or both together, which can avoid this problem AND are legal.

(1) Build a prison with a Faraday cage embedded in the walls and floor. (To cover the top of outdoor areas, a wire mesh net held up by tall poles would be required.) This will block any signals from getting in or out, but since it does not involve transmitting anything, it doesn't require an FCC license.

(2) Have the prison put up its own cellular site(s) inside the walls (inside the Faraday cage if any). Because the prison will control this site, they can do things like block service to any phone not on an approved list. If they have three towers they can also triangulate the location of any unapproved phones inside.

Anonymous said...

There are many solutions to every problem...

One solution is to deploy Cell phone detection systems inside prisons... A cell phone detection system is a set of sensors which detect when a cell phone is turn-on, in standby or in conversation the system will pin point down to a cell the exact location of the cell phone.

There are several companies who specifically build such systems specifically made to work inside prisons and jails such as cell-busters and Binj Laboratories

They are passive systems (they do not interfere with cell phone transmissions