When the first cellular phones began appearing on the mass market in the mid-‘80s, they were large and extremely heavy devices. So bulky were the early cellular phones that they could usually only be installed in a car. They often took up a large portion of the available trunk space and required separate handset, transmission and antenna units.
These phones were also extremely expensive. The first cellular phones cost nearly $10,000 in todays money, and a typical monthly bill could easily amount to a quarter of that amount. Thus, throughout much of the 1980s, cellular phones were a status symbol, used by the rich, famous and upper-crust professionals, like high-end lawyers and doctors.
But as the ‘80s turned into the ‘90s, cellphones began to miniaturize. The first handheld cellphones were still as large and heavy as bricks. But this began to change in the early 1990s. The first truly portable cellphones were contained in bags similar in size to a large purse. But by the year 1995, flip-phones that could easily fit in a user’s pocket had become ubiquitous.
By the year 2000, cellular networks had begun to proliferate throughout the United States. Phones were now far less powerful than the first examples from the ‘80s. This was due to the fact that the proliferation of cell towers required far less energy to transmit as phone transmission follows a power law. At the same time, computing power had continued to increase exponentially, and the size of computational equipment had continued to shrink. All of this added up to cellphones that were small enough to be hid almost anywhere and that were cheap enough so that anyone could afford to own and use one.
Overall, this trend was great for the U.S. economy. However, it presented some real problems for the nation’s prisons. A flood of contraband cellphones began pouring into the nation’s carceral institutions. It didn’t take long before dangerous gangs were using these devices to intimidate witnesses, order hits on rivals, carry out drug deals and even put out hits on prison staff. The miniaturized cellphone was quickly proving to be a thorn in the side of the U.S. justice system.
The problem continued to worsen, with many hundreds of cases each year of criminal gangs using cellphones to carry out vicious and dangerous crimes. Then, in 2015, Securus Technologies announced that it had devised a solution to the nation’s contraband phone problem. The solution was known as the Wireless Containment System, a device that is capable of blocking 100 percent of illegal cellular calls originating from within the property of a prison.
The WCS has proven to be the death knell of illegal cell phones, completely removing the ability of gangs to use contraband phones in order to wreak havoc on prisons and the public.