Throughout the history of humanity, one of the most potent drivers of technological innovation has been war. Many of the things that we now take for granted, such as jet airline travel, personal computers and microwave ovens are a direct result of technological research and development that came out of the military industrial sector.
Despite its horrible toll, war has continued to provide the world with innovations that have later proven to have enormous use in civilian applications. One recent example of this is the so-called Stingray system, a device that spoofs cellular relay towers in order to intercept enemy communications. The device was first developed for and deployed on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. It immediately proved to be one of the most successful and effective weapons in the U.S. arsenal, providing the military with reams of invaluable intelligence and allowing for the accurate pinpointing of enemy locations.
Now, the system has been repurposed to fight a war much closer to home. In the nation’s prisons, one can find some of the most powerful and well-organized prison gangs anywhere in the world. These gangs, with names like the Aryan Brotherhood, Mexican Mafia and Black Guerrilla family, run along primarily racial lines and are often organized with the rigor and discipline of elite military units. With a highly structured leadership and disciplined, trained rank-and-file, these gangs pose a serious threat to institutional order.
One of the key tools in the prison gangs’ arsenal is illegal cellular phones. The phones are smuggled into prison through various means. Due to the high value placed on these devices, they have proven almost impossible to keep out. A single $20 cell phone may be valued at $300 to $400 dollars inside of prison, a fortune for any prisoner who is able to get hold of one. On top of that, the phones are highly prized by gang leadership because they allow an easy and reliable form of communication with foot soldiers on the outside. These lines of communication with gang membership outside of prison are used for everything from witness intimidation to setting up drug deals to ordering the murder of prison staff.
But there is a chink in the gang’s communications armor. Securus Technologies, one of the nation’s leading prison communications firms, has developed a technology known as the Wireless Containment System. A civilian adaptation of the military Stingray system, the WCS is able to block all unauthorized calls emanating from within a prison with 100-percent success. The device also allows officers to locate any illegal cell phone that is turned on within the prison grounds.
Where the WCS has been deployed, corrections officers are reporting a total elimination of unauthorized cell phone calls.