With today’s large iPhones and iPads proliferating, it’s easy to forget that the history of cellular phones has largely been one of miniaturization. Although the most popular smartphones of today are often nearly as large, at least in terms of their footprint, as some of the first handheld cellular phones, the size of the smallest cellular devices today, such as the James-Bond-like Apple Watch, is smaller than ever.
Cell phones first started truly miniaturizing in the mid-1990s. Before that, the only true handheld cellphones were behemoth bricks that often weighed more than 2 pounds. There were also car phones and bag phones, which were semi-portable cellular phones that used a car-phone-like base contained within a bag. However, all of these devices were many times larger and heavier than the flip phones that would eventually begin to emerge in the mid-90s.
But by the end of the 90s, cellphone manufacturers like Nokia and Samsung had models that were small enough to easily be concealed almost anywhere. At the same time, the quality and reach of cellular service was rapidly improving, with vast portions of the United States being reached by at least one cellular network.
This proved to be revolutionary for the country as a whole, making mobile communications easier than they had ever been and freeing up workers to reach unprecedented levels of productivity while on the road or otherwise away from a traditional work environment.
But the cellular revolution wasn’t good news for everyone. Starting the early 2000s, the combination of almost totally pervasive, high-quality cellular service throughout the country and the increasingly compact and concealable nature of cellular devices meant that prisons throughout the country were being threatened by contraband cell phones.
These phones were used by dangerous and highly organized criminal gangs to carry out criminal activity ranging from orchestrating drug deals to ordering hits on prosecutors. The market dynamics within the nation’s prisons, where a contraband cell phone could be worth up to $300, ensured that the flow of illegal cellular devices would become unstoppable.
By the mid-2000s, contraband cellphones became epidemic throughout most of the country’s jails and prisons. Because of the highly organized nature of prison gangs, this meant that some of the most dangerous gang leaders, men who commanded armies of loyal soldiers, had effectively nullified their incarceration as they were free to continue their criminal enterprises just as if they were free.
Then, in 2016, Securus Technologies, one of the leading prison security companies in the nation, began rolling out its Wireless Containment System. The system promised to finally put a permanent end to the scourge of contraband cellphones confronting the nation’s prisons.
Today, the Wireless Containment System has all but eliminated the threat of contraband phones wherever it has been installed.