Many people not directly familiar with the U.S. prison system are surprised to learn the extent to which guards and prison administrators fight against crime on a daily basis. Even though the inmates are locked up most of the day, ongoing criminal activity is one of the most serious threats that penal institutions throughout the United States face.
One of the most serious threats that prisons face on a daily basis is that presented by illegal cellular devices. These means of communication, when placed in the wrong hands, could facilitate serious crimes. Illicit cell phones are often used by gangs to communicate with those on the outside, potentially enabling the introduction of contraband into the facility and even enabling crimes that take place on the outside of prison. There are many recorded instances of gang leaders ordering the murders of those on the outside, including witnesses and police officers, while they are incarcerated.
Because illegal cell phones pose such a dire risk to the safety of penal institutions across the United States, one company, Securus Technologies, has developed a system that enables the detection of any contraband cellular device inside of a prison. Called Stingray, this high-tech system is a direct adaptation of technologies that have been developed on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. Department of Defense. Initially used for targeting the communications devices and intercepting communications of enemy combatants, the Stingray system is now being used in the nation’s prisons to fight almost precisely the same problem.
So effective has the system proved to be that prisons where it has been deployed have reported that virtually all cellular devices not authorized by the prison itself have been completely eliminated. Prisons where the device has been deployed report that they are confiscating virtually no contraband cell phones during standard inmate detentions and searches.