USP Tucson (Bureau of Prisons)

Can tech arrest prisoners' cellphone use?

The federal Bureau of Prisons is looking for information on how it can leverage IT to prevent cellphones from being smuggled into facilities for use by inmates.

In a request for information issued Aug. 3, BOP wants help identifying technologies and systems that can actively and/or passively prevent inmates from using contraband wireless communication devices.

Specifically the bureau is looking for a commercial, rugged solution that can detect communications across wireless and radio frequencies and distinguish between contraband and authorized devices. The solution must be able to identify the physical and network locations of contraband devices and their unique device identifiers so officials can monitor activities in real time and conduct detailed forensic analysis.

Although cellphone signal jamming is illegal, the bureau acknowledges that the practice may be authorized for some agencies in limited circumstances.  Therefore, it asks that vendors offering solutions related to jamming, denial of service or beacon interdiction technologies specify whether their solution is currently authorized to operate in the U.S. or would require additional authorization.

Contraband cellphones have been a perennial problem for corrections authorities. They make it easier for inmates to threaten witnesses, harass victims, coordinate the introduction of additional dangerous contraband or assaults on other inmates or direct retribution on staff and other government officials outside prison grounds, BOP said.

Responses are due Aug. 21. Read the full RFI here.

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