Governor Martin O'Malley visited the Baltimore City Detention Center (BCDC) today to introduce the newest tool in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services battle against contraband cell phones behind prison walls: Managed Access technology, which blocks all illegal and unauthorized cell calls within the correctional facility's walls.
The system is seen as a critical tool that will keep criminals from carrying out illegal activity behind bars. A product of Tecore, a Maryland-based company, Managed Access automatically differentiates between authorized and unauthorized cellular devices within a target area. Callers hear a recorded message alerting them that their call cannot be completed due to the unauthorized cellular device they are attempting to use. The system works without staff involvement or "jamming" of wireless signals.
Unlike cell phone "jamming," Managed Access does not interfere with calls made from outside the prison walls, and thus does not violate federal law. It also does not interfere with emergency calls made from any cell phone.
After a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) pilot at nearby Metropolitan Transition Center yielded very favorable results--nearly eliminating the cell phone problems at that facility-- DPSCS sought to purchase the same technology for BCDC.
"For the last seven years, our administration has worked to put Maryland on the front lines of the national fight against contraband cell phones, "said Governor O'Malley. "This technology arms our dedicated correctional staff with additional tools they need to crack down on cell phones in our facilities, protect integrity and ensure the safety and security of our correctional system."
"This is a significant step in making our facility safer for staff, detainees, and inmates," said DPSCS Secretary Gregg Hershberger, who praised the Governor and legislature for their help in providing vast improvements for BCDC security, which have included a large network of digital cameras, more intelligence officers and detectives, and better technology.
DPSCS has been a national leader in the battle against contraband cell phones. Under Governor O'Malley's leadership, DPSCS has implemented several innovative approaches to increasing cell phone interdiction. These include investing $1.1 million in facility entrance technology; using cell phone sniffing dogs trained by its own K9 unit; fighting for legislation to increase penalties for those caught smuggling cell phones into prison; and forming partnerships with state's attorneys to prosecute offenders caught with cell phones.
"In many ways, Maryland was an early leader in the battle against cell phones inside correctional institutions. They set the standard," said James Gondles, Executive Director of the American Correctional Association. "Pushing forward with this kind of cellular detection technology definitely keeps DPSCS in forefront on this issue, and exemplifies their commitment to keeping their institutions among the safest in the country."
Former DPSCS Secretary Gary Maynard began the cell phone interdiction in earnest in 2007. "As soon as we recognized the scope of the problem, we made sure to start attacking it on multiple fronts. There is no single solution, but this technology is certainly a critical tool," said Mr. Maynard.
Since FY2007, DPSCS has significantly driven down serious assaults against both staff (60%) and inmates (53%) since 2007. In FY 2013, at 874 the number of cell phones confiscated inside DPSCS correctional facilities fell below 1,000 for the first time since FY2007, evidence that DPSCS' multi-faceted approach to combating this issue has worked to make our institutions safer and more secure. Managed Access is yet another tool Maryland is using to create one of the safest prison systems in the country.