ACT may consider jamming the phone at the Alexander Maconochie Center

ACT may consider jamming the phone at the Alexander Maconochie Center

The ACT Government has said it may consider using technology that jams the signal from mobile phones inside the Alexander Maconochie Center in Canberra, where phones account for a growing percentage of seized contraband.

New mobile phone jammers were installed in Goulburn this week in the Supermax 2 high security unit, which houses extremists and terrorists. If the initial test is successful, there will be a two-year trial at NSW prison.

The latest-generation system includes a number of antennas, which block frequencies that would normally carry cellphone signals, rendering the devices useless.

A spokesperson for the Justice and Community Safety Branch said the outcome of the trials at Goulburn could lead to the technology being used in the ACT.

“The implementation of cell phone jamming within the Alexander Maconochie Center is extremely complex,” he said.

"It should be noted that this is not the first trial of such technology in Australia and to date solutions have proven costly with varying results."

Cell phones are usually at the Alexander Maconochie Center in Hume. In 2017, the Canberra Times revealed that inmates were being caught with cellphones the size of a person's thumb. The size of these devices meant that they could be smuggled into body cavities, and since they contained little metal, it was more difficult for metal detectorists to retrieve them.

Telephone seizures as a percentage of contraband seizures

Figures are expressed as a percentage and relate to the Alexander Maconochie Centre. There are still four months left in 2019

Telephone seizures as a percentage of contraband seizures
Seizures of mobile phones as a percentage of total contraband seizures

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New figures published in The Sunday Canberra Times this week show that 189 mobile phones have been seized from the Alexander Maconochie Center since the start of 2015. Of these, 31 have been taken from inmates so far this year.

In 2019 to date, cellphones have accounted for more than 6% of contraband seized at ACT prison. This is the highest level in the last five years and is up from the 2018 figure of 5.5%.

Cell phone seizures

This is the number of cell phones seized at the Alexander Maconochie Center. There are still four months left in 2019

Cell phone seizures
The Department of Justice and Community Safety spokesperson said the ACT Human Rights Act would not prevent the introduction of cell phone jamming technology at the prison. Canberra, as mobile phones were prohibited items.

“Inmates currently have access to telephone and electronic communications through [the Alexander Maconochie Center] to support their relationships with friends and family,” he said.

ACT Corrections Inspector Neil McAllister said it was reasonable for the territorial government to take a "wait-and-see approach" while the cell phone jammer were tested at Goulburn.

He said one factor to consider if the technology were to be introduced to Canberra would be whether it would impact people in the vicinity of the prison, including those driving on the Monaro Highway who might need help. call the emergency services.