Summer Sale Extended! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Readers Respond
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 © 2015, 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 exclusively...

  • Mfume: Sun is too quick to judge Mosby

    Mfume: Sun is too quick to judge Mosby

    Last November Baltimore elected the youngest prosecutor of any major American city, and Marilyn Mosby has brought a balanced approach and a steady hand to the work of restoring a sense of justice and civility to the city's criminal justice system.

  • Why not just give Iran the bomb?

    Why not just give Iran the bomb?

    I have a great idea for an update to the Iran deal that would save a lot of time. We should go ahead and provide Iran with nuclear weapons and also some ICBMs. This will substantially shorten the time necessary for them to develop or purchase them on their own.

  • No more riots, please

    No more riots, please

    Wow. City "leaders" getting ready for protests (also known as riots), thanks for the "heads up" ("City readies for protests," Aug. 27). It's time the law-abiding, taxpaying citizens of Baltimore say loud and clear: "Enough!"

  • Don't coddle dirt-bikers

    Don't coddle dirt-bikers

    I find it amazing that the illegal dirt bikers will probably have a place to ride some day ("City should have zero tolerance for dirt-bikes," Aug. 27). If it is illegal, how will they get to the area that will be provided without riding on the city streets? I guess it will soon be OK for me to...

  • Trump unfit to serve

    Trump unfit to serve

    I am amazed at the number of voters who listen to Donald Trump and support his bluster and arrogance ("Baltimore, others cities say Trump's comments on immigrants in gangs unfounded," Aug. 27). It seems that they don't realize the United States is not a corporation run by one person.

  • Hogan shortchanges Md. schools

    Hogan shortchanges Md. schools

    John F. Kennedy once said "the goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth." Pragmatic and visionary leaders such as President Kennedy realize that in order for society to progress efficiently, we need to allocate the necessary resources needed to boost our...

  • Why must schools hire criminals?

    Why must schools hire criminals?

    What is wrong with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Council? Baltimore Schools CEO Gregory Thornton overspent taxpayers' money by $60 million and still has his job. Now, he wants drug abusers and thieves to work for city schools ("City schools officials to ease hiring rules...