There’s no doubt that cellular communications have been one of the most revolutionary transformations to the way in which ordinary people communicate. Cellular telephony made it possible for levels of productivity that had never before been seen. And they increasingly made it possible for people everywhere to stay in nearly constant touch with work, friends and family, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
With the ubiquity of modern cellular devices, it is easy to forget that, not so long ago, cellphones were primarily restricted to use by the rich, successful and famous. The first cellular devices were extremely bulky and expensive. When cellular telephones first began becoming widely available in the mid-80s, they were primarily limited to car installations. The components required to allow the high-power transmission systems to operate often took up a significant portion of a car’s trunk space and weighed up to 100 pounds. These phones may have been mobile, but they certainly were not easily portable. The upside to the bulk of these systems is the surprising fact that many of the first cellular telephones had nearly the range of modern devices. This was because they had up to 10,000 times the transmission power of modern cellphones.
But as the 80s turned into the 90s, cellular networks became more robust. Phone towers began a period of rapid expansion that wouldn’t drop off until the 2010s. By the year 2000, cellphones had gone from being 100-pound monstrosities that could only be contained in the trunk of a car to weighing just a few ounces and being able to fit literally almost anywhere. At the same time, the costs of both acquiring and using cellphones had dropped precipitously. Now, anyone could afford their own cellphone.
These developments were great for the economy as a whole. But the U.S. prison system would quickly realize that not all technological advancements are universally good. Starting around 2000, contraband cellphones began flooding the nation’s jails and prisons. These phones were used to circumvent secure prison communications platforms. But the real danger came from the phones quickly falling into the hands of the sophisticated and highly organized criminal gangs operating within the nation’s prisons.
Such gangs used the illegal phones to intimidate witnesses, conduct drug deals and even order hits on prison staff and prosecutors. The problem continued to escalate through 2010. Something needed to be done.
Then, in 2015, Securus Technologies began rolling out what it termed the Wireless Containment System. The system quickly racked up an impressive record, stopping nearly all illegal cellular calls from within prisons where it had been installed.
Now, the company is ramping up efforts to spread awareness of the system. With increasing adoption of the WCS, Securus estimates that, by 2020, illegal cellular calls will be virtually eliminated from the U.S. prison system.