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 on a single technology solution — cell phone blocking — rather than leaving the door open to all the possible technologies.
Inmates' cell phone access is not a new problem to Maryland, but in the past few years, the problem has exploded. Just last week, a member of Baltimore's Black Guerilla Family gang was sentenced to 37 months in prison for smuggling, among other contraband, cell phones into the Downtown Baltimore Prison. Since 2006, more than 3,000 phones have been confiscated from the Old Line State's prisoners.
The problem needs to be fixed, and the department is definitely taking a step in the right direction, but to hone in on one technology and to ignore others is wrong. There are solutions that have proven their effectiveness for this very application, yet DPSCS has repeatedly overlooked these for more costly, yet less proven systems.
I understand that different situations may require a different response, and I have no doubt that cell phone blocking and jamming (if it were legal) may prove useful in some environments. However, relying on a single, catch-all solution is dangerously shortsighted.
I implore Gov. Martin O'Malley and Secretary Maynard to take this issue more seriously and to explore every available technology before taking any option off the table. To allow experts in the industry to propose their solutions will cost the state no more than the request for proposal about to be issued and may illicit a more cost effective-solution by removing the restrictions about to be placed on the bidders.
Terry L. Bittner, Columbia
The writer is Director of Security Products at ITT Intelligence and Information Warfare's EVI Technology Business Area.