I recently came across the story of Robert Johnson and his journey to eradicate contraband cell phones in prisons. He knows too well the danger cell phones pose when used by inmates – he almost lost his life from it. However, through his efforts and the advancement of technology, we are now safer since many crimes are now thwarted before they can be directed from within prison walls.
Johnson spent 15 years as a correctional officer at Lee Correctional Institution where he became an expert at identifying and stopping the flow of contraband into the prison. His prize intercept was a large package destined for a prison gang worth $50,000. However, this landed Johnson on a hit list. Using a contraband cell phone, the prison gang attempted to harm Johnson through contracting with a convict on the outside, but Johnson survived and made a miraculous recovery.
Johnson now works as a consultant for Securus Technologies, a Texas-based company that specializes in providing paid phone services to inmates. Securus also offers their Wireless Containment Solution, or WCS, to block unauthorized cell phone calls from reaching phone networks, ultimately taking away a discreet way inmates can direct illegal activities outside of prison.
In March 2017, Johnson testified to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on how prisons can address the issue of contraband cell phones. Although federal law prohibits phone jamming devices, the FCC recently relaxed regulations that now allow prisons to adopt technologies that selectively prohibit unauthorized cell phone communications. During a trial period from July 2016 to July 2017, Securus’ WCS technology identified and stopped over 1.7 million illegal cell phone calls in eight prisons in the United States. However, not all prisons use technologies that intercept and block calls made from contraband cell phones. Robert Johnson continues to use his consulting role to educate prisons about his story and how they can save lives by adopting these new technologies.