UK prisons will roll out enhanced internet and mobile phone blocking technologies, according to new measures announced yesterday [paywalled] by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement.
The step which seeks to stop inmate access to the internet and calls made from mobile devices, will involve part of a £1.3bn investment from the Ministry of Justice to improve the country’s Prison Service. Through this strategy, the government hopes to drive “safety improvements” by denying calls and data used on illicit mobile devices.
Mobile phones are banned or limited in prisons, but use of contraband devices remains a major issue. Between 2013 and 2014, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) seized over 7,400 SIM cards and phones in prisons across England and Wales.
Although landline communications in prisons are monitored by authorities, mobile communications can go under the radar. A fact sheet published this year on unauthorised phone use in prisons, outlined that mobile phones were being used by “serious organised criminals to import firearms and drugs, co-ordinate escapes and to arrange murder.”
Earlier this year, the government passed new legislation allowing prisons to cut signal to mobile devices used illegally by inmates. The law means that prison authorities can apply for the identified mobile numbers to be disconnected.
The latest development in blocking technologies promises to be better than earlier systems, which inmates have been able to get around. The Ministry of Justice claims it will help “stamp out the organisation of crime from within prisons, and stem the availability of drugs and other illicit substances.”
The money will also be used to fund a video conferencing programme, allowing for “90,000” probation cases to be heard within prison walls, instead of having to transport prisoners to court – saving travel costs and improving safety.
George Osborne suggested that the new measures would help reduce prison operation costs by £80 million.