Vodafone, Telecom tackle mobile jamming for jails

The New Zealand government has signed an agreement with the country's biggest phone companies to introduce mobile blocking technology into Kiwi prisons.

The New Zealand government has signed an agreement with the country's biggest phone companies to introduce mobile blocking technology into Kiwi prisons.

The deal, announced yesterday, follows technical trials over the last 12 months by Vodafone, Telecom New Zealand and the Department of Corrections to prevent inmates from illegally using mobiles in their cells.

After testing a range of different blocking technologies, the two mobile operators will now start work on the process of installing the jamming infrastructure across New Zealand prisons.

The pair said that there is no perfect solution for the entirety of the prison system as each facility has its own characteristics. Vodafone and Telecom have come up with a package of technologies to block prisoners' mobile chats.

Vodafone and Telecom also announced they are working on a code of practice for future telcos on the subject of preventing unauthorised mobile use behind bars.

The Department of Corrections first announced co-operation with Vodafone and Telecom to tackle the problem of mobile use in jails in 2005. Previous discussions on phone jamming technology faltered due to concerns that the equipment could affect users outside prison walls.

"Prisoners in custody are using mobile phones to continue their criminal activity, threaten people in the community such as witnesses and victims, access services such as telephone banking and arrange escapes. Mobile phones also provide a capability to orchestrate simultaneous disturbances within correctional centres," a government report into illicit mobile use, published at the time, said.

Australia, too, is looking into blocking technology for prisons. Recently, NSW Justice Minister John Hatzistergos called on the federal government to stop delaying the introduction of such technology and said it should be adopted as a matter of urgency.

The New South Wales Parliament passed a Bill in June to make the use and possession of mobile phones in correctional institutions a criminal offence.