Prison mobile jamming trial starts in April

Summary:A trial of mobile phone jamming technology at Lithgow's maximum security gaol has been given the green light and will start by April pending benchmark tests.

A trial of mobile phone jamming technology at Lithgow's maximum security prison has been given the green light and will start by April, pending benchmark tests.

Jam

(Raspberry jam image, by Jim Champion, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Small phone jamming antennae will prevent prisoners from using mobile phones in gaols by blocking carrier network signals, hindering efforts by prisoners to import drugs into prison and organise break-outs.

The 12-month trial will be the first for Australia and one of the few in operation in the world. The United States has only recently lifted bans on the devices while Israel has used the technology for some time.

Senior project coordinator Mark Wilson said engineers will test the devices in a laboratory to ensure the jamming signals do not leak into the Lithgow community.

"Primarily the telcos are interested whether we can control the spillage into the surrounding areas," Wilson said. "It works."

He said the jammers will help control the smuggling of goods into prisons and said communications between prison staff will be unaffected.

A national working party between the state correctional departments will discuss the trials.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is maintaining bans on the technology, but will offer two exemptions to NSW Correctional Services in order for the trial to go head.

Two custom-made devices from Belgian company ISDG and CellAntenna will arrive next month under a special import exemption.

Tests should be finished with a report handed to the regulator by April, following a Christmas recess.

Phone jamming has received the ire of privacy advocates who fear the signals may hinder connectivity in surrounding communities.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption backed the technology's use in prisons in 2004. State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos had lobbied the regulator to permit its use in correctional services, including the Goulburn Super Max facility.

Topics: Mobility, Security

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Darren Pauli has been writing about technology for almost five years, he covers a gamut of news with a special focus on security, keeping readers informed about the world of cyber criminals and the safety measures needed to thwart them.

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