Government To Bolster Prison Mobile Blocking Tech

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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A £1.3bn investment in prisons is to go in part toward blocking mobile devices used to import drugs and organise crimes

The government is to introduce mobile signal blocking technologies in prisons as part of a £1.3 billion investment announced this week in the Autumn Statement in an effort to stem use of illicit mobile devices .

Items such as smartphones and tablets are currently blocked or limited in all UK prisons, but prisoners have managed to get around preventative measures and use mobile phones to import firearms and drugs, coordinate escapes and arrange crimes, according to the government.

‘Safety improvements’

Parliament Government London © anshar Shutterstock 2012

In 2013 and 2014, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) seized more than 7,400 SIM cards and mobile phones in prisons in England and Wales.

The investment builds on new legislation passed in January that allows prisons to apply for contraband mobile numbers to be disconnected once they have been identified.

The investment will also fund video conference centres in prisons intended to allow cases to be heard from prison instead of court, reducing prisoner transportation costs, and will introduce other “safety improvements” including body scanners, Chancellor George Osborne said.

“These reforms will reduce reoffending through more effective rehabilitation, and will reduce the cost of transporting prisoners between courts and prisons, stamp out the organisation of crime from within prisons, and stem the availability of drugs and other illicit substances,” Osborne said.

Cost reduction

The changes aim to reduce prison running costs by £80m per year, he said. As part of the investment, the government plans to build nine new prisons with modern facilities, while selling older prisons located on valuable property.

The government also plans to invest more than £700m to fully digitise the court system, generating an estimated savings of £200m per year from 2019-20, Osborne said. He said the Minsitry of Justice believes the reforms will enable it to reduce its administrative budget by 50 percent by 2019-20.

Earlier this month Osborne announced the government would invest £1.9bn in cyber-security by 2020, including the establishment of a National Cyber Centre (NCC) aimed at foiling cyber-attacks by nation states on the country’s critical infrastructure.

“If our electricity supply, or our air traffic control, or our hospitals were successfully attacked online, the impact could be measured not just in terms of economic damage but of lives lost,” Osborne said in a speech at GCHQ.

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