ITT Cell Hound

A multilayered effort to remove cellphones from prisons through legislative influence, public activation and media advocacy.

Synopsis: Spector & Associates used the public policy debate surrounding the legalization of communications jamming to position Cell Hound as a cost-effective and ready-now solution to the issue of contraband cellphones in U.S. prisons.

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In recent years, cellphones smuggled illegally into U.S. prisons have been used to intimidate witnesses, operate criminal enterprises and even organize murders. To counter the problem, a number of solutions were proposed, including signal jamming, service denial, and detection and confiscation.

Our client, ITT Corporation’s Defense and Information Solutions division (now Exelis), was a firm supporter of the detection and confiscation approach. As the world’s largest manufacturer of jamming systems, the company knew that the technology was unsuitable for domestic applications. Difficult to contain and expensive to implement, jamming would be using a sledgehammer where a scalpel was required.

So to address the issue of contraband cellphones, ITT adapted counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) technology to develop Cell Hound, a system that could triangulate communications signals to within feet. This intelligence allowed corrections officials to either confiscate contraband cellphones or monitor their use in order to glean further information.

Breaking into this market posed a number of challenges to ITT. First, although the company had built a strong reputation within the defense sector, it was still yet to fully establish itself in the commercial market. Second, many lawmakers believed jamming to be a simpler and more intuitive solution than the more complicated (yet effective) detection and confiscation approach. Third, in order to secure funding to effectively tackle the problem of contraband cellphones in prisons, support within government had to be built around a single technological approach.

Brand building and media engagement

Spector & Associates secured widespread media coverage with ITT featured in general media outlets like The New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Associated Press, the Sacramento Bee, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, ABC, NBC and FOX News. Coverage was also secured in technology and trade media such as WIRED, TechCrunch, Wireless News, American Jails, Corrections and Sheriff.

Public Affairs & Legislative Efforts

Spector & Associates successfully lobbied to stall — and eventually defeat — pro-jamming legislation introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill had initially passed the Senate 99-0.

To achieve this we:

  • Briefed staff on the House Judiciary, Energy and Commerce Committee (Subcommittee on Communications and Technology) and Science, Space and Technology Committee
  • Worked with legal counsel and legislative directors in the offices of Representative Kevin Brady and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson — the bill’s primary sponsors.

Spector & Associates also targeted executive branch agencies in order to shape the debate.

This included facilitating a technology demonstration for the influential Federal Communications Commission (FCC); participating in working groups with the president’s principal adviser on telecommunications policy, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA); and guiding the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) study into the use of contraband cellphones in U.S. prisons.

Results

  • Spector & Associates generated more than 100 media stories featuring ITT executives.
  • Federal legislation to legalize cellphone jamming in prisons failed in the House of Representatives.
  • Federal government funding for detection technology was increased 10 fold over a three-year period; Maryland, California, Texas, Virginia and Mississippi have all received federal appropriations to test or implement detection systems.
  • The CTIA, NTIA, FCC and GAO have released studies or whitepapers advocating for the use of detection technologies over all other solutions.
  • Due to media attention, ITT received international sales inquires from Spain, Mexico, Denmark and Colombia.