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Phone detection technology introduced in prisons

Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed that a specialist mobile detection technology is being used to detect and seize illegal phones used by prisoners

Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced a new phone detection technology in prisons, to tackle phone smuggling which leads to drug-dealing and violence behind bars.

Gauke revealed the specialist detection equipment has been introduced as part of efforts to clamp down on illicit handsets, which fuel violence and drug dealing behind bars.

He said: “As criminals look for new ways to smuggle contraband into prisons, it is vital that we stay one step ahead, and this kind of technology will help prevent them operating from their cells.

“This is vital to ensuring prisons are places of safety and rehabilitation, where offenders can turn their backs on crime for good.”

The government supported the Interference with Wireless Telegraphy Bill, which received Royal Assent on 20 December 2018. This legislation enables prisons to use interference technology to disrupt mobile telephone signals and prevent the illegal use of mobiles by prisoners.

Phone detection technology

The phone detection technology works by sending real-time alerts when a mobile is detected in prison, shown on a digital heat map which identifies the strength of the signal. This allows prison officers to pinpoint the location of the phone down to the exact cell.

Staff can also track data over time to watch for patterns emerging, for example when inmates conspire to smuggle drugs into prison. This intelligence is analysed and in conjunction with law enforcement partners can lead to arrests.

The technology is part of a wider multi-million-pound strategy to restore stability to prisons, with other measures including security scanners, improved searching techniques, phone-blocking technology and a financial crime unit to target the criminal kingpins operating in prisons.

Following a successful six-month trial of the phone detection technology in one prison, the technology is now in use in five across the country.

Additional prison safety measure include installing security scanners and phone-blocking technology, improved search techniques and establishing a financial crime unit as part of the multi-million pound bid to tackle internal illegal activity.

Iris scanning and facial recognition biometric technology have been successfully trialled at three prisons to halt the prison drug supply last month.

Direct link between crime in prisons and communities

There is a direct link between crime on the wings and landings and crime in towns and cities. Ensuring there is less crime in prisons means less crime in communities.

Since January last year, the government has invested £70 million in safety, security and decency to help restore stability to the prison estate. On top of this, £14 million is being invested each year to stop criminal gangs smuggling drugs into prisons.

Earlier this month, the Press Association revealed the number of social media accounts shut down at the request of prison authorities had surged after hundreds of inmates used smuggled phones to post from behind bars.

Between March 2018 and March 2019, there were 10,643 reported incidents involving mobile phones found in prisons in England and Wales – a 15% increase on the previous year.

For security reasons, the location or further details of the phone detection technology has not been disclosed by the authorities.

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