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HRDC reply comment to FCC regarding contraband wireless devices in prisons and jails

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Human Rights Defense Center
DEDICATED TO PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS

July 17, 2017

The Honorable Ajit V. Pai, Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th St. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
Re:

Reply Comment on Report and Order and Further Notice
of Proposed Rulemaking, GN Docket 13-111

Dear Chairman Pai:
The Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which publishes Prison Legal News, respectfully
submits this Reply Comment for GN Docket No. 13-111 in response to comments filed in
response to the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Promoting Technological Solutions
to Combat Contraband Wireless Device Use in Correctional Facilities, issued by the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC or the Commission). 1
As noted in our initial comment, 2 HRDC supports the legitimate efforts of correctional agencies
to promote public safety. We do not, however, support initiatives that are implemented due to the
corruption and wrongful acts of correctional employees who are allowed to willfully create those
potentially dangerous situations and, as such, we disagree with Cell Command, Inc.’s assessment
that “only the FCC can ensure the safety of the public again” with respect to contraband cell
phones in detention facilities. 3 Prisons and jails in this country are charged with and funded to
ensure public safety, and to the extent that correctional employees create safety issues that may
arise through the use of cell phones by prisoners, those facilities are responsible for any costs
associated with the identification and disabling of illicit wireless devices.

1

FCC Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN Docket No. 13-111, adopted March 23,
2017.
2
Human Rights Defense Center Comment on Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN
Docket 13-111, filed June 19, 2017.
3
Cell Command, Inc.’s Comments in Response to the Commission’s Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN
Docket 13-111, filed June 19, 2017.

P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Phone: 561-360-2523 Fax: 866-735-7136
pwright@prisonlegalnews.org

Page |2

Multiple examples of guards smuggling cell phones into correctional facilities, as well as the FBI
supplying a prisoner with a cell phone as part of an investigation into the Los Angeles County
jail system, were submitted with our initial comment. 4 On July 6, 2017, yet another corrections
officer pleaded guilty to smuggling cell phones and drugs into the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility over a two-year
period, in exchange for approximately $45,000. See Attachment 1.
In its comment, the American Correctional Association (ACA) purports to be “vitally concerned,
as a matter of life and death for our members and as a matter of public safety,” and stresses that
a technological solution is possible “if the FCC is able to view this as a public safety matter that
trumps the FCC’s traditional modes of operation.” 5 The ACA goes on to “insist” that the FCC
use “utmost efforts” to implement a system that “employs existing technology to protect the
public and our members from contraband cell phones.” Id. While the ACA contends that the
number of phones being smuggled into correctional facilities is on the rise, it fails to mention
that the smugglers are usually correctional employees – and then complains the efforts required
to combat this issue are becoming “burdensome for corrections.” Ensuring public safety that is
threatened by the acts of correctional employees should not be “burdensome” to prison and jail
officials; it should be dealt with at the source of the problem – guards who smuggle cell phones
to prisoners. The refusal to address systemic corruption by public employees is a matter of lack
of political will on the part of detention facilities, not a technological issue.
As leaders of the national Campaign for Prison Phone Justice fighting for FCC regulations that
will result in comprehensive reform of the prison telecom industry, HRDC finds it interesting
that the ACA believes that leaving the selection of specified technologies to the marketplace is
an “inappropriate” concept and speaks to “the failure of the market to arrive at a meaningful
solution” over decades – much like the complete market failure that has resulted in the price
gouging of prisoners and their families for prison phone calls.
HRDC believes that it is totally inappropriate at every level to have prisoners and their families
shovel yet more of their limited money into the coffers of the largely hedge fund-owned ICS
industry due to widespread corruption by corrections employees and the complete inability and
unwillingness of correctional administrators to control and discipline their corrupt staff. To be
clear, if these were government procurement contracts where the government agencies were
using their own funds to experiment in the boondoggle of MAS technology, we would not be
submitting this comment. Rather, our concerns center exclusively around who is going to pay for
it and to date it is clear that the corrections agencies and their collaborators in the ICS industry
expect prisoners and their families to foot the bill for a problem that is largely caused by corrupt
government employees, through elevated ICS phone rates and fees.
This is not surprising, as some of the same companies that provide Inmate Calling Services also
have a stake in the technologies that have been developed to combat contraband wireless devices
in correctional facilities. Some ICS providers like Global Tel*Link (GTL) stated that fact openly
in a comment filed on this docket, in addition to publicly stating that prisoners and their families
will incur the cost to combat the greed of correctional facilities and employees:
4

Human Rights Defense Center Comment on Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN
Docket 13-111, filed June 19, 2017 (Attachments 1, 2, 3 & 8).
5
American Correctional Association Comments on Combating Contraband Wireless Device Use in Correctional
Facilities, GN Docket No. 13-111; FCC 17-25, filed June 23, 2017.

Page |3

Finally, the Commission should address how solutions to combat contraband
devices will be funded. There is a growing trend to require inmate calling
service providers to include MAS-like services in the bundle of services
provided to correctional facilities. In light of the high cost to implement the
technologies needed to fight against contraband devices, without a
Commission-sanctioned cost recovery mechanism, the rates for inmate
calling services are likely to increase when such solutions are required by
correctional facilities. It is therefore essential for the Commission to address
directly the funding of MAS and other solutions for combatting contraband
wireless devices in correctional facilities. 6
Other companies aren’t as transparent. CellBlox Acquisitions, LLC makes no mention in its
comment that it is owned by Securus Technologies, Inc. (Attachment 2), and does not address
cost at all. 7 In fact, one of the CellBlox comment authors, Dan Wigger (Vice President and
Managing Director, Wireless Containment Solutions), was a panelist selected to discuss
Managed Access Systems at the FCC’s Field Hearing on Contraband Cellphones conducted in
Columbia, South Carolina on April 6, 2016, where he also failed to mention that Securus had
hired him to “be responsible for the day-to-day management of our Managed Access Systems
(MAS) business that installs proprietary high tech software preventing contraband wireless
device use in prisons and jails in the United States” (emphasis added). 8
The government, correctional agencies and employees, and guard unions are mainly responsible
for the corruption that has been allowed to exist with respect to contraband cell phones; they are
the ones who have profited from smuggling phones into facilities. Prisoners and their families
should not be required to pay for the greed of correctional employees. Should the FCC move
forward with this issue, it should require correctional facilities to bear the cost of any systems
implemented to detect cell phones, and ensure that new regulations only benefit those facilities
that are doing all they can to deal with this issue as detailed in our initial comment. 9
Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter.
Sincerely,

Paul Wright
Executive Director, HRDC
Attachments

6

Comments of Global Tel*Link Corporation, GN Docket 13-111, filed June 19, 2017.
Initial Comments of CellBlox Acquisitions, LLC, GN Docket No. 13-111, Filed June 19, 2017.
8
Human Rights Defense Center Ex Parte Submission, Failure to Disclose Identify of a Securus Technologies
Employee, Docket No. 13-111, filed April 7, 2016.
9
Human Rights Defense Center Comment on Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, GN
Docket 13-111, filed June 19, 2017 (e.g., Attachment 9).
7

Attachment 1

NEWS RELEASE
OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
San Diego, California
Deputy United States Attorney
W. Mark Conover
For Further Information, Contact:
Assistant U. S. Attorney Andrew Young (619) 546-7981
Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Robinson (619)-546-7994
)RU,PPHGLDWH5HOHDVH

Former Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Drug Smuggling at
Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – July 6, 2017
SAN DIEGO – Anibal Navarro, a former Corrections Officer at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility,
pleaded guilty in federal court today to drug and bribery charges, admitting that he and others smuggled
methamphetamine, heroin and cellular telephones into the prison for two years in exchange for about
$45,000.
Navarro entered his plea to one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Illegal Narcotics and one count of Bribery
Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds. According to his plea agreement, he admitted he was paid
by prisoners, their family members and associates to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the prison two to
four times a month from 2014 to 2016.

1

Navarro was arrested by FBI Agents and officials from the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitations-Office of Internal Affairs on June 26, 2016 as he attempted to smuggle heroin,
methamphetamine and cellular telephones into the prison.
Ten additional individuals, including inmates and their associates on the outside, were also indicted by a
federal grand jury on charges that they conspired with Navarro to smuggle drugs and cellular telephones
into the prison. Their cases are pending.
The FBI encourages the public to report allegations of public corruption to our hotline at (877) NO-BRIBE
(662-7423).
DEFENDANT

Case No. 16cr1664-AJB

ANIBAL NAVARRO

Age 39

Chula Vista, California

SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Distribute Illegal Narcotics – Title 21, U.S.C., Sections 841(a) (1) and 846
Maximum Penalty: Life in Prison
Bribery Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds – Title 18, U.S.C., Sections 666
Maximum Penalty: 10 years in prison
AGENCY
Federal Bureau of Investigation – San Diego Field Office
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Internal Affairs
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Investigative Service Unit
United States Postal Service – Inspection Service
San Diego Police Department

2

Attachment 2

https://www.securustechnologies.com/securus-history

SECURUS HISTORY
For more than 25 years, corrections industry constituents - facilities, inmates, and the family and friends of inmates - have relied on
Securus Technologies and its predecessor organizations for communication solutions designed to fulfill their specialized needs. In
recent years, Securus has strategically executed a revolutionary growth plan by acquiring organizations offering complimentary
products and services beyond communications, fortifying Securus' position in the industry as the leading provider of full-spectrum Civil
and Criminal Justice Technology Solutions.
We will continue to build our story by connecting what matters to our partners and customers. Please explore our timeline.

2015
January 29th, Securus launched the industry's most comprehensive set of inmate services with the ConnectUs operating system,
the first inmate-facing operating system of its kind on the market, which automates critical operations for corrections agencies while
delivering unlimited applications to inmates
January 14th, Securus acquired CellBlox, a leading provider of Managed Access Systems (MAS) that limit the use of contraband
wireless units in prisons and jails

2014
November 21st, Securus acquired exclusive rights to Jobview's 2nd Chance™ application where Securus will distribute their
application throughout the corrections industry to help reduce recidivism
November 11th, Securus entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Vanu, Inc. where Securus will provide managed
wireless access systems that will limit the use of contraband wireless units in prisons and jails in the United States
November 6th, Securus installed the largest corrections video visitation project in the United States for Maricopa County, Arizona,
with construction of a 600 Video Visitation Terminal Project allowing inmates to receive worldwide video calls
August 1st, Securus purchased selected assets from General Security Services Corporation (“GSSC”) adding additional services to
its industry-leading GPS offender monitoring business and expanding base of customers for STOP
June 11th, Securus acquired JLG Technologies and affiliated companies, the leading supplier of continuous voice biometric analysis
and investigative tools to the corrections and law enforcement sectors
March 3rd, Securus acquired Telerus, the leading provider of sophisticated automated interactive voice response systems to the
corrections sector throughout the United States

2013
December 20th, Securus acquired Satellite Tracking of People (STOP), LLC., the leading provider of active global positioning
systems (GPS) based offender monitoring devices in the United States
November 18th, Securus acquired Archonix Systems, LLC, the leading provider of jail management systems, emergency dispatch,
court monitoring, and business intelligence systems for the corrections, law enforcement, government services, and emergency
management sectors

June 10th, Securus launched newly redesigned Website and account management portal, Securus Online, transforming the family
and friend customer experience by providing a new, mobile-enabled Web experience that unifies all Securus communication
services under one account
April 30th, Abry Partners acquired Securus Technologies from Castle Harlan

2012
July 3rd, Securus acquired DirectHit Systems, Inc., a provider of sophisticated investigative, data analysis tools for law enforcement
and corrections clients (THREADS™ Product)
March 19th, Securus acquired Primonics, Inc., a leading provider of video visitation services to the corrections industry

2011
May 31st, Castle Harlan acquired Securus Technologies from H.I.G. Capital
January 6th, Securus completed transformation of its sophisticated customer service call center to a 225 set in-sourced operation
providing service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, in order to support the largest and best-equipped call center in
the industry

2004
September 9th, H.I.G. Capital acquired all outstanding Evercom stock. The merger of the two correctional industry giants—T-Netix,
Inc. and Evercom Systems, Inc.—formed the company, Securus Technologies, Inc.
March 5th, H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based private equity firm with more than $1 billion of equity capital under management,
purchased the outstanding shares of T-Netix, Inc. common stock.

1996
Evercom Systems, Inc., formerly Talton Holdings, was incorporated. Over the next several years, Evercom grew through acquisition.
The company acquired several inmate telephone service providers across the United States with a strategy built on becoming the
leading correctional industry telecom provider to facilities nationwide

1992
T-Netix, Inc. acquired eight affiliated companies in the inmate phone business and the assets of two other companies

1988
Tele-Matic merged with Star Ventures, Inc.

1986
T-Netix, Inc. began under the name Tele-Matic Corporation, which was incorporated in 1986

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