Proposed usage of jamming technologies in correctional facilities to block illegal cell-phone communications from inmates continues to be a hot topic, but Tecore Networks has a solution that is designed to stop the problem without requiring changes to existing laws and regulations.

By using Tecore’s intelligent network access controller (iNAC) product, a corrections administrator can manage access from within a prison facility to commercial cellular networks, said Amit Malhotra, Tecore’s vice president of marketing. All calls from the facility are processed initially through the iNAC, with calls being blocked unless they come from devices using SIM cards authorized by the system, he said.

“In other words, it’s not a solution that will completely cut out all communications,” Malhotra said. “It selectively permits or denies communications based on policies set by the system operator, such as the prison administrator.

“Unlike other solutions, this is a legal solution to ensure that the contraband cell phones never make a call … wherever they are on the premises.”

Malhotra said Tecore recognizes that contraband cell-phone use in correctional facilities is a significant issue, noting that more than 27,000 were smuggled into U.S. prisons in 2008. Last year, the states of California and Maryland reported a 70% increase in the number of phones confiscated in correctional facilities, he said.

While inmate use of contraband cell phones — often to coordinate criminal activities while incarcerated — is a significant issue, most proposed solutions have focused on jamming solutions that would prevent any cellular communications from a corrections facilities. Malhotra said most correctional facilities he has visited have personnel that rely on cellular technology for official communications, so jamming would hamper operations in the facility.

“Jamming is the thing that everybody points to as the solution,” he said. “But, in addition to being illegal under the Communications Act, it’s also really too broad of a solution that cuts out all the benefits of the communications technology. It would be the equivalent of saying, ‘I got a virus from my Internet access, so I’m going to cut that Internet access off entirely.’

“What’s really required is a solution that enables that critical communication to occur while also addressing the unwanted communication from contraband cell phones. That’s why we believe we are the optimal solution, because we can do both — we can permit the authorized communications, and we can deny the unwanted communications.”

Tecore’s solution is flexible enough to be adapted to adhere to the laws of any jurisdiction regarding the collection of information regarding any attempted call, Malhotra said. In addition, the technology was created with the cooperation of the FCC and commercial wireless carriers, which have voiced “grave concerns” about proposals to allow jamming.

One criticism of controller-based technologies such as the iNAC is that they are more expensive than jamming solutions. Malhotra said he does not believe that is necessarily true, depending on the scope of the implementation. Furthermore, Tecore has taken steps to help ensure that financial issues for budget-strapped correctional entities can be addressed.

“We have identified partners who have a vested interest in solving this problem who are commercial companies that will work with us to ensure that the problem is solved, and they create a funding mechanism for the corrections institution,” he said, declining to identify Tecore’s partners. “There are definitely ways we can address the funding issue.”