Prisons adopt heat-seeking hi-tech to sniff out mobile phones smuggled into jail

A form of heat-seeking technology will be used to detect mobile phones being smuggled into jails.

The system sends real-time alerts when a mobile is detected in prison, shown on a digital heat map that ­identifies signal strength.

Prison officers are then able to pinpoint the phone’s location – down to the exact cell.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “As criminals look for new ways to smuggle contraband into prisons, it is vital that we stay one step ahead.

“This kind of technology will help prevent them operating from their cells.

"This is vital to ensuring prisons are places of safety and rehabilitation, where offenders can turn their backs on crime for good.”

Following a successful six-month trial in one prison, the technology is now in use in five.

Staff can also track data over time to watch for patterns emerging – such as when inmates conspire to smuggle drugs into prison.

Illicit use of phones in prisons to co-ordinate crime is driving high levels of violence as offenders vie for control of the trade and enforce drug debts. Phones are also used to ­terrorise victims and run external criminal networks.

The new technology is part of a wider multi-million-pound strategy to restore stability in jails.

Other measures include security scanners, improved searching ­techniques, phone-blocking technology and a financial crime unit to target criminal kingpins operating behind bars.

Since January last year, £70million has been ploughed into safety and security for the prison estate.

On top of this, £14 million is being invested each year to stop criminal gangs smuggling drugs into prisons.

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