Specialist mobile detection technology is being used to detect and seize illegal phones used by prisoners, Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed. The new technology is the latest weapon in the fight against phone smuggling which can lead to drug-dealing and violence behind bars.
The technology works by sending real-time alerts when a mobile is detected in prison. The detail is 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 then analysed and, in conjunction with law enforcement partners, can subsequently lead to arrests.
David Gauke said: “As criminals look for new ways in which to smuggle contraband into prisons, it’s vital that we stay one step ahead. This kind of technology will help prevent them operating from their cells. This is vital to ensure prisons are places of safety and rehabilitation where offenders can turn their backs on crime for good.”
Illicit use of phones in prisons to co-ordinate crime fuels high levels of violence as offenders vie for control of the internal market and enforce drug debts. Phones can also be employed to terrorise victims and maintain outside criminal networks.
Restoring stability across the prisons estate
The technology is part of a wider multi-million pound strategy designed 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 jails.
Following a successful six-month trial of the latest technology in one prison, the technology is now in use in five locations across the country.
There’s a direct link between crime on the wings and landings and crime in the UK’s towns and cities. Ensuring there’s less crime in prisons means less crime in local communities.
Since January last year, the Government has invested £70 million in safety and security measures in a bid to help restore stability to the prisons estate. On top of this, £14 million is being invested each year to prevent criminal gangs from smuggling drugs into prisons.
This has come against a backdrop of rising prison officer numbers, with more than 4,700 additional officers recruited since October 2016 and staffing levels at their highest number since 2012.