Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. $12 for 12 weeks.
News Opinion Readers Respond

Maynard: No single solution to illegal cell phones in prison

Terry Bittner's assertion that cell phones in Maryland's prisons are an issue is correct. This is an issue in every state. His assertion that Maryland is focusing on a single solution — cell phone blocking — is inaccurate. And his insinuation that we are not doing enough is wrong ("Cell phone blocking isn't the only answer for Md. Prisons," June 15).

There is no one single solution to meeting the challenge of illegal cell phones in prisons. In the absence of jamming, which is generally illegal in the United States, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has conducted more than 20 months of research on all available technologies to better understand which cellular detection, managed access or jamming applications would work best in our prisons. This includes a multi-vendor pilot demonstration in the summer of 2009 and several subsequent long term single-vendor pilots.

But not waiting on a technological solution, we have attacked and significantly slowed the flow of cell phones on several fronts including: developing better intelligence, investing in better entrance and scanning technology, innovating approaches like using cell phone sniffingdogs, and data mining interdicted cell phones to help local prosecutors build better cases on inmates found with phones.

Better intelligence has made gang communication within our prisons increasingly more difficult and has become integral to gaining convictions for many Black Guerilla Family gang members in the past two years (alluded to by Mr. Bittner). Our $1.1 million entrance scanning technology has increased the percentage of cell phones captured before they make it inside our prisons by more than 10 percent through April of fiscal year 2011 compared to fiscal year 2010; our dogs have found almost 500 phones since 2008; and with our new forensics intelligence gathering abilities we are seeing close to a 90 percent conviction rate in the cell phone cases states' attorneys are now taking to court.

None of this is guaranteed to stop all cell phones from getting into our prisons, but it has decreased the flow — by 32 percent in 2010 compared to 2009. But more importantly, these targeted efforts have helped make our prisons safer for staff and offenders. Serious assaults on staff have fallen by 50 percent from 2007 to 2010. On offenders they have fallen 35 percent.

Corrections systems must invest, innovate, develop partnerships and educate themselves in order to gain the necessary capabilities to fight this problem. Maryland has become a national leader in cell phone interdiction, and our efforts have been reported on by media here in Maryland and nationally.

Mr. Bittner's comments misrepresent and cloud the exhaustive efforts we have made, not only to slow the flow of cell phones inside our prisons, but also to identify truly effective anti-cellular technologies and the best practices of their use.

Gary D. Maynard,Towson

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Cell phone blocking isn't the only answer for Md. prisons

    In the coming weeks, Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will seek the technology industry's solutions to the very real threat that illegal cell phones pose to the state's prison system. However, from my understanding, Secretary Gary D. Maynard will focus...

  • Here's why you should care about torture
    Here's why you should care about torture

    In his letter to the editor, Mark Wilson ("Who cares what the CIA does to terrorists?" Dec. 21) asks whether he is living in the "Twilight Zone" because he sees nothing wrong with torturing people to get so-called information from them. Perhaps he is. He fails to grasp that the people in...

  • Regulate the banks
    Regulate the banks

    Dan Rodricks' recent column attributing amnesia to our Congress and president for dispensing with the requirement that big banks refrain from making risky investments with taxpayers' deposits was right on target ("For too many in Washington, a phantom recession," Dec. 21).

  • The advantages of paper ballots
    The advantages of paper ballots

    Your recent editorial identified increased voter confidence as the reason for the change to optically scanned ballots ("Back to the future on voting," Dec. 21).

  • U.S., Russia and the energy revolution
    U.S., Russia and the energy revolution

    Citing the American "fracking revolution" as a significant factor in Russia's economic crisis, writers Jim Rosapepe and Sheilah Kast go a bit overboard in linking it with the comparative success of capitalism and democracy ("How dangerous is Russia?" Dec. 22).

  • Russian 'menace' is overstated
    Russian 'menace' is overstated

    Jim Rosapepe and Sheilah Kast's commentary, "How dangerous is Russia?" (Dec. 22), sets up some straw men and creates a specter of menace over the current twist in Russian relations versus the West. But Russia never invaded the West while historically both Napoleon and Adolf Hitler invaded the...

  • Phelps should have been given ignition interlock
    Phelps should have been given ignition interlock

    In its reporting of the judicial disposition in Michael Phelps' latest DUI conviction ("Michael Phelps gets no jail time after entering guilty plea in DUI case," Dec. 19), The Baltimore Sun quoted the presiding judge as saying that if Mr. Phelps doesn't get the message this time, "the only...

  • Reaching out to survivors
    Reaching out to survivors

    Thanks to Andrea K. McDaniels for her compassionate reporting on the trauma experienced by survivors of those who have been killed in violent crimes ("Relatives of Baltimore murder victims struggle with grief," Dec. 20). The collaborative effort in the Upton-Druid Heights area to support the...

Comments
Loading