Cyprus Mail

Permission still pending for upgrade to prison phone jamming system


Work to install a system to deactivate mobile phones at the island’s central prisons is awaiting the green light from the prisons’ directorate, according to the department of electrical and mechanical services.

According to an announcement, the department, which is part of the ministry of transport, communications and works, “intense efforts are being made to complete the upgrade of the system.”

The announcement said that equipment was received on August 9, 2022 with the aim of starting the installation the next day and that the prison management had been informed about it from August 5, 2022.

The department said that to date, no permission has been given by the directorate of prisons to the contractor to enter the prison area, despite all the efforts to satisfy various demands requested by the prisons department.

The department was also at pains to stress that similar demands had not been requested in the past for various projects and services that the department provided to the central prisons.

“A typical example is the current refusal of the prisons directorate to allow the entrance to the contractor for the start of the works. Today’s incident demonstrates the readiness of the department to immediately complete the upgrade of the system, if the contractor is allowed to enter the central prisons,” it said.

Meanwhile, the alleged collusion between a convict and the head of the police drugs squad (Ykan) to damage prisons’ director Anna Aristotelous, aside from the obvious scandal, has revealed deficiencies in controlling illegal cell phone usage within the prison system.

A series of leaked mails have shown that the justice ministry was pursuing surveillance upgrades for the prison software currently in place. This entails recording of a device’s unique code (IMEI), the sim card’s identity (IMSI), the date and time of a call and its geographic coordinates when attempting to make a call within the prison system’s coverage.

Speculation then arose that authorities were actually seeking a surveillance upgrade rather than an upgrade to jam the use of mobiles, reasoning that, instead of making it harder to control phone usage it is preferable to keep the jamming capabilities as they are but introduce surveillance as a way of keeping an eye on things.

According to Phileleftheros, in a February meeting, Justice Minister Stephi Dracou had given verbal instructions to the prisons department to go ahead and upgrade the software to do just that.

Dracou said a system for the deactivation of mobile phones was already in operation since the summer of 2020, and any new actions were only focused on harmonising the system with ever-changing technological data.

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