São Paulo to spend R$1bi to block cell phones in prisons

The Brazilian state will start rolling out tech to prevent criminals from making calls later this year
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The government of São Paulo will spend approximately R$1,1bi ($484mi) in the implementation of technology designed to block the cell phone signal at maximum security penitentiaries across the state.

The idea is to cut off the communication links of jailed villains, who smuggle phones into prisons and use them to continue their activities in the outside world, including gang organization, drug dealing and victim harassment.

Some 30 prisons will be kitted out - mainly those where bosses of criminal organizations are locked up.

The conclusions about the cost of the systems have been made after trials that have taken place across the state with various cell phone jamming options over the last few months. According to reports, the actual tendering process will then be launched in the next few weeks, with a view to start implementation before year end.

One of the trials at a prison in São Paulo involved systems from local software firm Innovatech, which blocks the signal from GSM devices of push-to-talk radio devices, which are popular in Brazil due to their lower-cost plans. The Innovatech package of software and hardware costs about R$600,000 ($264,000) acccording to Gizmodo. The trials also included an option provided by Isreali company Suntech, which costs about R$1mi ($440,000).

In addition to the cost of introducing the technology, it is understood that the monthly maintenance cost may vary between R$1mi and R$3mi. The project has several variables to be considered, including distance from urban centers, topography and other factors.

Introducing cell phone denial technology in prisons is something that has been discussed and promised by authorities in São Paulo for a long time.

Interestingly, during trials at the Mogi das Cruzes prison - carried out without the knowledge of the inmates - it was observed that in three days, there were 23 attempts to call the customer services line of one of the providers. The cell phone jamming tech allows the calls to be made and creates logs with the call information, but prevents their completion. 

The data, provided by the Secretary of Penitentiary Administration, also highlighted that during nine days of trials in the Mogi prison, over 1,500 sim cards were detected. The figure included staff devices, but it is still a lot, given the jail's population of 2,000 people.

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