Texas is looking into an agreement that California officials have made with a communications firm to curb inmates’ calls from prisons on smuggled cellphones, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Instead of jamming cellphone calls around prisons as Texas officials had earlier proposed, the California system would block outgoing cell calls, Web access and text messages by managing the cellphone signals at prisons — and allowing only signals from approved numbers to go through.
The state Department of Criminal Justice is working with Century Link, which operates pay phones inside Texas’ 111 state prisons, to evaluate a similar system for Texas. Smuggled cellphones in Texas prisons have posed a security risk for the past decade. The situation drew headlines and triggered a weeks-long lockdown of the entire state prison system in late 2008 after a death row convict made threatening calls to a state senator and a reporter. Efforts to curb cellphone smuggling into prisons have come up short, even though the state has spent millions of dollars on screening devices, surveillance cameras, detection devices and even phone-sniffing dogs. Clark said Texas prison employees last year seized 904 cellphones in prisons or headed there, down from 1,480 three years ago. Prison officials attribute the decline to $60 million in security upgrades. By contrast, California last year confiscated 15,000 cellphones at its 33 prisons.