Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Jammers cleared - Digicel to fast-track blocking cell phones in prisons after meeting with Montague

Published:Saturday | January 7, 2017 | 1:00 AMJovan Johnson

Telecommunications company Digicel has said it has expedited a process to come up with a solution for the installation of mobile phone-jamming equipment in prisons, confirming a report that it was reprimanded by National Security Minister Robert Montague for taking too long to complete the process.

Government insiders had told The Gleaner that Digicel officials, including Chief Executive Officer David Butler, were called to a meeting by Montague at his St Andrew offices on Thursday, where he registered his concerns about the issue which has national security implications.

The Gleaner reported yesterday afternoon that a source informed our newsroom that the issues were identified five months ago and that the company later acquired the technology to address the concerns but failed to implement it.

In a statement following that report, Butler noted that at Thursday's meeting, Montague "expressed a desire to move forward with telecoms providers to deploy mobile phone-jamming equipment in prisons as part of a strategy to mitigate organised crime".

He said: "Out of good corporate citizenship, Digicel gave its commitment to continue discussions with equipment providers and local telecoms partners in order to come up with the most appropriate industry solution.

 

Response by next week

 

Explaining the delay, Butler said: "Due to the variety of technical options, it took us longer than usual to complete the process. We have expedited the process and expect to be in a position to properly advise the minister on a solution by next week.

Digicel insisted that "there are no national security concerns in relation to our licence obligations".

The authorities have been struggling to stamp out the use of phones behind bars which, they believe, allow some inmates to influence criminal activities within the society.

In 2003, the Government purchased $8.5 million worth of cellular phone signal jammers to bar outgoing calls at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre. It was rendered useless less than three years after its installation.

In 2015, The Gleaner reported on prisoners using smartphones to access social media sites such as Facebook, where they shared regular updates on happenings behind bars with the world outside.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com