Prisons in New Zealand to introduce mobile phone jamming technology

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A successful 12-month trial of mobile phone blocking technology in New Zealand prisons has just been completed, according to the Minister of Corrections, Vodafone and Telecom.

Corrections Minister, Damien O'Conner, described this technology as a world first and a significant milestone for the Department of Corrections.

The mobile phone blocking technology is being implemented to help prevent the growing problem of inmates using mobile phones which they are currently prohibited from. One case included a Mt Eden prisoner using a mobile phone to organise NZ$1 million worth of methamphetamine (commonly known in New Zealand as P) being smuggled in. Other cases at Mount Eden Prison included posting of pxts on the Internet, and ordering meals of KFC.

Vodafone, Telecom and the Department of Corrections signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stating that they will help prevent the use of mobile phones inside prisons. In a joint statement Greg Patchell, Group Technology Officer for Telecom, and Tom Chignell, Corporate Affairs General Manager for Vodafone, said, "With the technical trials completed, and the MoU Agreement in place, work can now begin to apply the most effective technologies to combat unauthorised cellphone use in each prison site in New Zealand."

Hawke's Bay Prison will be the first prison to get the new technology due to its high level of gang members. The technology will be implemented in the next six weeks.

However, some prisons, including Mt Eden Prison, might not have this technology implemented due to different characteristics of each prison. Simon Power, Corrections Spokesperson for the National Party, said, "The technology won't work around all prisons, the most notable being Mt Eden, which has had significant contraband problems." Patchell and Chignell said, "...we have now identified a package of technical solutions which the Department of Corrections believes could be deployed with effectiveness in some of its facilities."

The prison and if the mobile phone service of anyone living near a prison will be affected, will determine the type of mobile phone jamming technology used.

As well as the new mobile phone jamming technology, new legislation is being written which will mean if an inmate, prison contractor, or staff member is found carrying a mobile phone, they will face either a fine of $5,000 or a year in jail. As well as tighter security of prisons, including only one point of access into them.

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