Philly Courts to Start Having Visitors Lock Cell Phones in Bags

Starting April 3rd, visitors to the Criminal Justice Center will be forced to lock their phones in pouches that prevent them from being used.
Philadelphia's Criminal Justice Center. Photo | Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

Visitors to the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice will soon have to do more than just go through a metal detector — they’ll have to lock up their cell phones, too.

But it won’t be similar to the old system at the CJC, where you’d have to “check in” your cell phone with an employee. Instead, you’ll have to put your phone in a small pouch that will render it essentially inoperable. No texts. No internet. No phone calls.

The CJC is partnering with Yondr, a company that makes the pouches to create what it calls “phone-free events and spaces.” The devices have been used by people like Dave Chappelle, Guns n’ Roses, and Childish Gambino to prevent recording at their shows.

Hannibal Buress has also partnered with Yondr to prevent people from recording his shows, but we can’t understand why. (Sorry.)

“The proliferation of mobile devices throughout society has given rise to safety and security concerns in our courtrooms,” Jacqueline Allen, administrative judge of the Court of Common Pleas, said in a release. “In order to balance the public’s desire to keep their devices in-hand with the Court’s duty to ensure a safe courtroom environment without disruption, the FJD has teamed up with Yondr™ to address a 21st century problem with a 21st century solution.” (The ™ was in the statement, which means Judge Allen “said” it.)

The court says it is using the Yondr pouches due to witness intimidation with cell phones. Lorraine Donnelly, who spent a decade as an A.D.A., told the Daily News that witness intimidation with cell phones is “1,000 percent a problem.”

“The new Yondr™ pouch provides a solution to issues that other jurisdictions around the country are facing as well,” Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield said in a release, again with the ™. “The new pouch is a functional, simple solution that eliminates the need to collect and store phones of all those entering the courthouse.”

Many groups are exempt from having to put their phones in Yondr pouches, per a release:

  • Current or former Judges and current employees of the First Judicial District
  • Federal, state, or municipal law enforcement or probation and parole officers who display his or her proper credentials upon request
  • Any attorney displaying a bar card or the employee of an attorney entering the courthouse for the purpose of conducting court or an official hearing, and who displays his or her proper credentials upon request
  • An individual who displays a current jury summons or who is entering in response to such summons
  • An official of a governmental agency entering the courthouse for the purpose of conducting court, an official hearing or court duties and who displays his or her proper credentials upon request
  • Persons with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, that require them to have electronic devices to communicate
  • Any person displaying written permission to bring such device into the courthouse issued by a resident Judge holding court in the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice
  • Members of the news media with current proper valid identification and credentials
  • Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice building and maintenance workers
  • Case managers, treatment providers, victim witness coordinators, veterans’ justice outreach coordinators (VJO), veterans’ mentors, and forensic peer specialists, with proper identification

These new requirements will start April 3rd.