Cellular telephones have been a revolutionary force in the modern economy. Today, nearly everyone has a cellphone. And people use these ubiquitous and convenient tools to increase their productivity and stay connected with coworkers, clients, friends and loved ones in ways that have never before been possible in human history.
All of this would not have been possible without serious development of the cellphone from a big, expensive novelty into a streamlined, miniaturized practical device. The first cellphones appeared in the mid-‘80s. They were very large instruments, often only being installable in the trunk of cars. The majority of the first cellphones were thus called car phones. They usually had three main components: a handset, an antenna system and a transmission unit. These systems weighed up to 100 pounds or more and, while they were mobile, they were far from portable.
Throughout the 1990s, the size of cellphones began to rapidly diminish. This was driven by advances in miniaturization of electronic components, especially digital computer chips. But it was also driven by the rapid proliferation of cellular networks and towers. This meant that second-generation cellphones increasingly only needed fractions of the transmission power of prior generations. Even with miniaturization of electronics, if cellular networks had not been dedicated to vastly increasing the number of towers and network coverage areas, cellphones would have still needed to be extremely heavy to accommodate the high transmission power needed. True handheld cellphones would never have been able to develop.
But as network proliferation continued, the mid- ‘90s saw the introduction of the first flip phones that could easily fit into someone’s pocket. These trends led to cellular devices becoming small enough and cheap enough by the year 2000 that they could be afforded by anyone and hid almost anywhere.
It was at that time that contraband cellphones began flooding the nation’s prison system. At first administrators and guards didn’t fully appreciate the dire problems this represented. But soon, highly organized criminal gangs within prisons were ordering the intimidation of witnesses, nullifying cases against murderers and high-level drug dealers. Gangs also began harassing and, in some cases, killing prison staff, prosecutors and other law enforcement.
This problem escalated throughout the 2000s. By 2010, the nation’s prisons were inundated with contraband cellphones. And prison gangs were using these devices to systematically undermine the safety and security of the institutions where they were housed as well as that of the public at large. Something needed to be done.
Then, in 2015, Securus Technologies introduced its Wireless Containment System, a device adapted from high-tech military counterinsurgency tools that is able to shut down 100 percent of illegal cellular activity within its operating radius. Today, the Wireless Containment System is rapidly spreading throughout the country’s prison system, eliminating the threat of illegal cellphones.