Mobile phones have been used by inmates of correctional centres to threaten victims of crime and witnesses; organise acts of violence, access to drugs and escapes; and photograph staff and the environment within facilities.
For these reasons, corrective services authorities internationally have considered, and sometimes deployed, mobile phone jammers within prisons. However, mobile phone jammers carry the risk of potentially disrupting legitimate mobile phone usage by members of the community beyond the perimeter of a facility.
Mobile phone networks, or public mobile telecommunications services (PMTS) networks, are increasingly critical to the community and to the conduct of business and government administration.
The prohibition of mobile phone jammers
Due to the potentially disruptive effect of mobile phone jammers on PMTS networks, many jurisdictions around the world, including Australia, have prohibited their use. The potential impact of mobile phone jammers on calls made to emergency services is a particular concern. In Australia, the operation or supply, or possession for the purpose of operation or supply, of mobile phone jammers, is prohibited by the Radiocommunications (Prohibition of PMTS Jamming Devices) Declaration 2011 (the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition).
More information about the prohibition of mobile phone jammers can be found on the devices prohibited by the ACMA webpage.
More information about mobile phone jammers can be found on the Mobile phone & GPS jamming devices FAQ.
The mobile phone jammer trial at Lithgow Correctional Centre NSW
Since 2013, at the request of Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW), the ACMA has facilitated a trial of mobile phone jammers at Lithgow Correctional Centre in NSW to ascertain whether the considerable benefits of the use of mobile phone jammers in this context can be realised without the associated risk to PMTS networks. This trial is authorised by the Radiocommunications (Field Trial by Corrective Services NSW of PMTS Jamming Devices at Lithgow Correctional Centre) Exemption Determination 2015.
The trial at Lithgow Correctional Centre has prevented mobile phone usage by inmates. There have been no substantiated reports or complaints of interference to PMTS networks attributed to the operation of the mobile phone jammer. This result has been achieved through careful oversight by CSNSW of the jammer system and its effects; and close and ongoing collaboration between CSNSW, Telstra, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Optus and the ACMA throughout the trial.
The mobile phone jammer trial at Goulburn Correctional Centre NSW
Following a request from CSNSW for a further mobile phone jammer trial at the Goulburn Correctional Complex, NSW, the ACMA conducted a public consultation on this proposal in May-June 2016.
The ACMA subsequently made the Radiocommunications (Testing and Field Trial by Corrective Services NSW of PMTS Jamming Devices at Goulburn Correctional Complex) Exemption Determination 2016 (the Goulburn Exemption Determination).
The Goulburn Exemption Determination allows CSNSW to conduct a trial at Goulburn Correctional Complex at a time of its choosing, for a period of two years, following acceptance of test reports by the ACMA. The testing and trial at Goulburn Correctional Complex has not yet begun.
The purpose of this trial is to assess the risk of the operation of a mobile phone jammer in a correctional facility in a location with a higher population density than the area around the Lithgow Correctional Centre. This will contribute to decision-making on the feasibility of more widespread use of jammers in correctional facilities.