Cellphone jammers to be installed at jails

Step to stop widespread use by high profile inmates, criminals
By Kailash Sarkar

Following detection of quite widespread use of mobile phones by prisoners in violation of the jail code, the government decided to install cellphone jammers at all 67 prisons across the country.

Inspector General of Prisons (IGP-prisons) Brig Gen Zakir Hassan told The Daily Star yesterday, "Recently we seized a few mobile phones from prisoners, which they had been using while in jail. That's why we have taken the decision to make it impossible for the prisoners to make unauthorised contacts with people outside."

"A low range cellphone jammer has already been installed at Dhaka Central Jail experimentally about 15 days ago. In the first phase, the jammers will be installed at all 12 central jails, and the rest of the jails will get them gradually."

Cellphone jammers transmit low power radio signals to cut off communications between cellphones and transmission towers, prompting cellphones to detect 'NO SERVICE' in an area.

Recently, newspapers published reports with corroborations from jail authorities that many high profile prisoners, detained in the ongoing anti-graft drive, have been using mobile phones coordinating their political, professional, and other activities outside from jails.

According to the sources other imprisoned crime suspects and convicted criminals also often control their networks of killings, extortions, and other crimes through mobile phones from jails.

The jail authorities already took punitive actions against at least 10 high profile prisoners for using cellphones in prisons violating the jail code.

Imprisoned former ministers Air Vice-marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury and Barrister Nazmul Huda, and former state minister Aman Ullah Aman were shifted to Narayanganj Jail punitively for using mobile phones in Dhaka Central Jail.

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, political adviser to former prime minister Khaleda Zia, was sent to Sylhet Jail punitively from Kashimpur Jail, and former housing minister Mirza Abbas was sent back to Dhaka Central Jail from Apollo Hospital for same reasons.

The jail authorities also seized mobile phones from possessions of imprisoned former state minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Sigma Huda, wife of Nazmul Huda, Sabera Aman, wife of Aman Ullah Aman, and Khusnud Lobi, wife of former lawmaker Ali Asgar Lobi.

According to the jail authority sources, a number of other VIP prisoners also have been using mobile phones in prisons as well as various other criminals, dodging the eyes of the authorities.

"The seizures of mobile phones prove that mobile phones are somehow being smuggled into jails," the IGP-prisons said adding, "We have decided to install cellphone jammers, so the mobile phones smuggled into jails by prisoners won't work."

Our Rajshahi correspondent Anwar Ali reported that Deputy Inspector General of Prisons (DIG-prisons) at Rajshahi Maj Hafijur Rahman Mollah said, "The authorities of all 16 prisons in the northern districts have been asked to provide data about where in the prisons the jammers could be installed, without interfering the signals in areas adjacent to the prisons."

The jail authority sources said they also asked the jails to provide data regarding whether they have division wards and hospitals where VIP prisoners are usually kept, and what are the capacities of those as well as of the general cell blocks.

DIG-prisons Maj Shamsul Haider Siddique said, "Jails in Dhaka need the jammers the most, since high profile prisoners tend to use cellphones more than other prisoners."

IG-prisons Brig Gen Zakir Hassan said, "The cellphone jammers will be purchased from abroad through an invitation for tenders."

The IGP-prisons hoped that the invitation will be published in June, following which the jammers will hopefully be installed in all the central jails within this year, to be expanded gradually to other jails.

He also said, "We are very alert against unauthorised use of mobile phones in jails, but in addition to our usual vigilance we have started installing the jammers."

Brig Gen Zakir said, "Each of the jammers installed at Dhaka Central Jail covers about 100 square feet. The jammers installed will be of low range so the people outside are not affected by it."

The prison authority sources said they are now assessing the cost of installing the jammers.

Source: The Daily Star
Published on: Saturday, March 1, 2008