Cellular Detection Through Managed Access Coming to Maryland Prison System
Board of Public Works Awards Important Public Safety Contract

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Towson, MD (April 23, 2012) --- A federal grant secured by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention is helping Maryland deploy a sophisticated technology known as managed access in its constant battle against contraband cell phones behind prison walls.

The three-year, $2 million contract was awarded to Tecore Networks of Columbia, MD who will deploy the technology in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ (DPSCS) Metropolitan Transition Center in downtown Baltimore City. It is funded half by General Fund money and half by federal funds through the Edward J. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program, which allows states and local governments to support a broad range of programs to prevent illegal drug activities, control violent crime, and improve the criminal justice system. 

Maryland’s ability to secure the federal grant was due in large part to the efforts of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who fought to keep this vital public safety federal subsidy funded through at least the next fiscal year.

“The use of cell phones by inmates is a significant threat to public safety and these additional funds will bolster our efforts to combat illegal cell phone use inside our prisons and protect our neighbors and families in communities across Maryland,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.  “We appreciate the steadfast commitment of Senator Mikulski and our Congressional delegation for their help in securing the grant funding.”

Contraband cell phones have become a burgeoning issue for prison systems across the country. For Maryland, there is no single solution to ending the use of cell phone in its prisons, and DPSCS has been forced to implement 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 to seek out the contraband inside facilities; and forming partnerships with state’s attorneys to prosecute offenders caught with cell phones.

This has increased our ability to capture contraband cell phones by 76% since FY2007. In the last fiscal year, 21% of the 1,304 cell phones found by staff were caught before getting behind prison walls, but hundreds still got into the hands of offenders.

“Managed access and detection is the next step in our efforts to stop illegal cell phones in our institutions. This technology is our best option for protecting our staff and the public,” said DPSCS Secretary Gary D. Maynard. “We believe the pilot program will show this method of communication can be eliminated among offenders who may use cell phones to bring people harm or conduct illegal activity.”

Unmonitored communication among inmates poses a grave threat to Maryland’s correctional staff, as well as the public’s safety. Interdicting cell phones has, in part, helped DPSCS reduce the number of serious assaults on staff by 60 percent since FY2007.

Deployment of Tecore’s managed access technology will begin this May with a 60-day pilot program at the Metropolitan Transition Center in downtown Baltimore. This managed access system will allow calls made on approved devices and deny calls made from unauthorized – contraband – cell phones and small, easy-to-hide SIM cards. The contract allows for the deployment of the system through October, 2015.

Unlike cell phone jamming, managed access will not interfere with calls made from outside the prison walls and does not violate federal law. Managed access will allow emergency calls made from any cell phone to go through.