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Government Hardware

Ban Sale of Mini Mobiles, Says Justice Minister (cnet.com) 192

Online retail companies should ban the sale of mini mobile phones designed to be smuggled into prisons, said justice secretary David Lidington on Monday. From a report: Often marketed as "Beat the Boss phones", the tiny feature phones can be bought for around $25 to $40 online on sites including Amazon, Ebay and Gumtree. On the inside, they can change hands for up to $670. The phones, which can be as small as lipsticks, are popular with prison inmates due to their discreet size and lack of metal, which allows them to beat metal detectors. Mobile phones are banned in prisons, in part because they allow inmates to continue criminal activities while they're locked up. But around 20,000 phones and SIM cards were seized by prison guards in 2016, with mini mobiles making up around a third of these.
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Ban Sale of Mini Mobiles, Says Justice Minister

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  • How about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @01:47PM (#55762467)

    ... fuck off, and do your job?

    • I'm having trouble understanding a) why these phones aren't seen as an intelligence asset rather than a threat b) what is so hard about detecting the transmissions?

      • Re:How about... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:40PM (#55763053) Homepage Journal
        They're not worried about people calling home, they're worried about people calling home without paying the astronomical costs charged by prison phone operators, who bribed the government for those exclusive contracts fair and square.
        • by torkus ( 1133985 )

          No no no...don't you read the propaganda? It's because criminals can still "conduct criminal enterprise" while in jail if they have a cell phone.

          Calling your babymama, kids, parents, or whoever else doesn't matter because someone might do something bad.

          The astronomical costs of collect calls from jails is justified by...uhm...erm...well i'm sure there's something.

        • by SB5407 ( 4372273 )
          Not to mention that those brib--er, I mean contracts, usually include an agreement to close the on-site visitor center, therefore making phone calls--expensive phone calls--the only way to visit with an inmate. Oh, and at least one jail/prison has been found recording attorney-client calls illegally.
        • Re:How about... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MikeMo ( 521697 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @03:56PM (#55763711)
          Ok, my wife is an ex-prison guard, and, believe me, prisoners do conduct criminal activity from their cells with their phones. It's so bad in California that correctional officers have to drive "evasion" routes when going to or leaving the prison, are required to carry a gun for self-protection, and are not allowed to wear uniforms outside the prison. The reason is that inmates manage their "peeps" outside the prison to follow, harass, blackmail and extort prison employees.

          As a placement counselor, she also dealt with lots of inbound cases of perps convicted of doing bad things for inmates. It's real, and, given conjugal visits where Mama brings in mini phones hidden in, shall we say "personal" locations, it's impossible to stop.

          The government has also tried to implement cell phone blockers on prison grounds, but this was shot down for constitutional reasons.
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        You are asking people that found that "prison guard" or "justice secretary" were their calling in life to actually understand technology, even if only a little bit. It is far easier for them to call for restrictive laws, they were probably just waiting for a pretext anyways.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @01:49PM (#55762489)

    They'll be half that size in a couple years. And then half as small again a few years after that. Why fight a battle you already know you're going to lose?

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      They'll be half that size in a couple years. And then half as small again a few years after that. Why fight a battle you already know you're going to lose?

      At that rate after 30 years they will be subatomic (assuming current size 5cm and atom size .1 nm)

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @01:51PM (#55762511) Homepage Journal

    kthxbye

  • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:11PM (#55762743)

    This was about British prisons?

    I mean, "Justice Minister" was a pretty solid clue they weren't talking American prisons, but we'd like enough info in TFS to know where the problem is appearing, at least....

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:18PM (#55762817) Journal

    I had no idea these existed. They seem insertion-sized, if you get my drift.

  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:22PM (#55762855)

    I'd honestly love something that's light, unbreakable (no glass touch screen, just plastic display), and fits in any of my pockets easily. I don't need smartphone functionality most of the time.

    As far as prison phone monopolies, I have no idea whether the British (what this article is about) have them or not.

  • Corollary: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guygo ( 894298 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:29PM (#55762947)
    Why aren't they allowed to use jammers?
    • Because they're illegal and indiscriminate. If you could jam perfectly to within the prison walls (specifically the prisoner areas), while still allowing radios to work without issue, (oh, and also do this cheaply), then the problem might be solved.

  • by nerdonamotorcycle ( 710980 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:43PM (#55763089)
    No, not "beat the boss". Beat the B.O.S.S., as in Bodily Orifice Security Scanner, a chair-type scanner used in U.K. prisons to find contraband smuggled up peoples' bums. https://boingboing.net/2017/02... [boingboing.net]
    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      So that wonderful video descrbing the operation of the BOSS scanner ... also gives the default passcode for the settings menu. Want to take odds that virtually 100% of those chairs out there still have the same passcode as my luggage?

      Change that sensitivity to 0 and go to town smuggling in whatever you want.

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @02:49PM (#55763145)

    You could prevent prisoners from using cellphones in the slammer by installing in-house jammers. Or you could ban small phones in the entire country and hope that it would be easier to keep this specific technology out of an island with thousands of miles of coastline, numerous airports and a domestic capability to make devices like this in a hundred different places.

    So guess which option the periwigged idiots take?

  • Mobile phones by design broadcast their position all the time, with quite powerful signal and on a very specific band. A good directional antenna and a portable spectrum analyzer should be enough to pinpoint their location as long as they're on.
    • Mobile phones by design broadcast their position all the time, with quite powerful signal and on a very specific band.

      That would not be useful.

      Who wants to monitor 100's of cell phones, all broadcasting "Help! I'm up someone's ass! Help! Help me!"?

  • How the hell hard could it be to either a) jam the shit out of them, or (better) b) use all that nifty Stingray hardware to put up a "cell tower" in the center of each prison unit, dominating the signal, and routing all the calls comfortably through police servers?

    This doesn't seem like a rocket-science problem.

  • The phones, which can be as small as lipsticks [...]

    I'm sorry but I went to that page to see the phones in question and I have to say, it would have to be big-ass lipsticks.

    • The phones, which can be as small as lipsticks [...]

      I'm sorry but I went to that page to see the phones in question and I have to say, it would have to be big-ass lipsticks.

      If you're going to keister it into a prison, it might as well be a big ass-lipstick.

      https://xkcd.com/37/ [xkcd.com]

  • Why not just setup a mini cell tower to prisons that will pickup all calls and either record all calls for further evidence or just drop them. Wouldn't matter how many phones they can smuggle in.

    • Better than that, you can get a micro cell set up that would cover the property but would block all calls from unregistered cells (thus allowing staff on the 'right' side of the bars to have cell phones) while recording their position so you can confiscate the contraband.

      It won't happen, though. Lots of stuff gets into prison, and until you eliminate the guards and any contact with visitors that isn't through a polycarbonate wall, you're not really going to stop it.

  • by RockyMountain ( 12635 ) on Monday December 18, 2017 @04:44PM (#55763999) Homepage

    Not allowed in prisons?
    Then why call them cell phones?

    • Not allowed in prisons?
      Then why call them cell phones?

      At work, end of the day; a quick look at /. to feed my jones. I find this; I return home knowing all is well in the world.

  • Let's ban the sale of all knives!
  • Would have been nice of summary to tell us that, since if you don't know who the hell "David Lidington" is off the top of your head, it could have been Canada, Australia, or almost any place (but not the USA, since we have an Attorney General instead of a Justice Minister).

  • Since when has the fact that something is banned stopped criminals from acquiring them?
    Mobile phones are already banned in jail, and yet they still smuggle them in...
    Clearly the guys in jail never cared that much about the law or they wouldn't be in jail...

  • Given the level of incompetence exhibited by this government, i'd expect the bill to end up banning sales of all microphones.

  • Let them have their cell phones....but without service not much happens. Yes, I know that will impact visitors, lawyers, and personnel as well, but they can opt for hardwired alternatives.
  • What would be far more effective is banning guns. Makes committing crimes significantly harder and drastically reduces prison population.

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