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Cellphone blocking stops criminal offending

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Corrections

11 July 2008
Media statement

Cellphone blocking stops criminal offending

Corrections Minister Phil Goff said today that cellphone blocking being implemented in New Zealand prisons is a major step forward that will stop prisoners committing further offences while behind bars.

Mr Goff made the remarks during a visit to Otago Corrections Facility.

“Following successful trials at Northland Region Corrections Facility, Hawkes Bay Prison and at Otago, we are rolling out the technology at all prison sites. All prisons will be fully blocked by February 2009,” Mr Goff said.

“Investing in this technology is an important further step to improving public safety because of the potential for prisoners to use cellphones to organise further crime, harass witnesses and others in the community and arrange escapes.

“The rapidly developing cellphone technology has made it increasingly difficult to stop cellphones and sim cards entering prisons and to detect them once they are there.

“This new technology tackles the problem by blocking cellphones within the blocked area.

“Otago Corrections Facility is one of New Zealand’s first prisons to receive this world leading technology. The vast majority of the prison site is now covered and the site will be fully blocked in the very near future,” Mr Goff said.

“Cooperation between the Government and telecommunication companies on this project is unprecedented internationally.

“We have worked very closely with Vodafone and Telecom to make this happen and I would like to acknowledge their support and cooperation. We could not have done it without them.”

Mr Goff said cellphone blocking technology is one of a number of recent initiatives implemented to stop prisoners continuing their criminal offending.

“The blocking technology complements the monitoring system on prison pay phones across the country. All prisoner phone calls at prisons are recorded and monitored by Corrections intelligence teams on both a targeted and random basis.

“Since the telephone monitoring was piloted in November, evidence gathered has led to charges against prisoners around the country for robberies, harassment, gang activity, illegal drug use and a raft of other offending.
“Last week a prisoner from Waikeria was sentenced to nine months prison for making threatening calls to his partner while on a prison payphone. Evidence from Corrections’ telephone monitoring led directly to his conviction.”

The Government has also introduced the Corrections Amendment Bill into Parliament which will strengthen the Department’s ability to stop cellphones and other contraband entering prison.

“The Bill will provide enhanced search powers for Corrections Officers. It will also increase penalties on both those found to be supplying prisoners with contraband and prisoners found in possession of contraband,” Phil Goff said.


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