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Banned and jammed: jail trial extended

Issued: Wednesday, 9 July 2014
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The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is leading the way for prisons to be phone-free zones, extending the trial of a mobile phone jamming trial at Lithgow Correctional Centre, Attorney General and Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard said today.

The 12 month trial at the maximum security jail in Central West NSW will inform all Australian States and Territories’ Corrections authorities about the wider implementation of jamming technology, which has been used in other countries including the United States and New Zealand.

“Corrective Services NSW has been making headway against contraband in prisons with targeted deterrence and detection which have resulted in more seizures of contraband, including mobile phones,” Mr Hazzard said.

“Mobile phone use by inmates is a significant problem both locally and internationally, because of the threat it poses to the security of jails and the security of the community as some inmates try to continue to their criminal activities while locked up.

“Jamming means inmates can no longer thumb their nose at the system and the contraband value of a mobile phone becomes worthless.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority granted the three month extension through until the end of September.

The jamming device uses dozens of antennas installed inside Lithgow Correctional Centre to emit a signal at very low power, preventing any mobiles inside the jail from connecting to a networked mobile phone tower. The signal does not extend beyond the jail’s boundaries and does not affect phone users in the community.

Mr Hazzard said detection and deterrence measures to tackle contraband included:

  • More than 91,000 searches inside prisons by CSNSW Security Operations Group and sniffer dogs in 2013, which resulted in a 440 per cent increase in mobile phone seizures – from 39 phones/accessories in 2009 to 211 in 2013.

  • A criminal offence for possessing mobile phones, chargers and SIM cards with fines, additional imprisonment or loss of privileges.

“The community can have confidence that the NSW Government is keeping inmates away from contraband crime using the best of technology and manpower,” Mr Hazzard said.