California prison inmates are keeping up with technology. According to an article by Leslie Horn, PCMagazine, California State Senator Padilla said that California prison officials confiscated 261 cell phones in 2006, a number that jumped to 6,995 in 2009 and 10,761 in 2010. And on January 6, 2011, Charles Manson was caught with a camera phone in his prison cell in California’s Corcoran State Prison. (Mansion is serving consecutive life sentences for the murder of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.)
Over 10,000 Cell Phones Confiscated in California Prisons
California plans to get tough on cell phones in prisons. It’s not just outsiders who smuggle cell phones into the prisons. State analysts say that the primary source of smuggled cell phones is prison employees. With cell phones fetching $1,000 each inside the prisons, it is no wonder. Last year, one guard claimed he made $150,000 smuggling phones. He was fired but never charged with anything. Richard Subia, of California’s Department of Corrections, says smuggling cell phones to convicts isn’t a crime. However, State Senator Padilla introduced a bill on February 3rd that would crack down on cell phones in prison and impose a $5,000 fine for smugglers and inmates. This is Padilla’s third attempt at introducing a similar bill.
“Last year more than 10,000 cell phones were confiscated in California prisons. SB 26 will target both the inmate and anyone who smuggles a cell phone to an inmate,” Padilla said in a statement. “The bill includes heavy fines and jail time for smugglers; and non-restorable loss of time credit and additional prison time for inmates caught with cell phones.”
Federal laws prohibit scrambling cell phone signals in prison. The reasoning behind the prohibition is that it might disrupt legitimate cell phone calls, as well as emergency radio communications. Screening prison employees as they enter the prison doesn’t seem to be a viable solution either. Guards are paid for their “walk time,” meaning that any screening would be on the clock. Paying the guards while they remove steel-toed boots and then put them back on, would be cost-prohibitive. But, clearly the problem isn’t going away. So what is the solution? Got an idea? Let us know and we will send it on to the California legislators.
What is the big deal about prisoners having cell phones? Cell phones in prison mean that prisoners can communicate with other inmates, thus increasing the possibility of prison gang activity. In addition, being able to access the outside world, including posting photos and videos to the world from prison, isn’t a great idea. Many convicts inside prisons continue to do illegal business outside of prison. Cell phones just make it all that much easier. Is it a breach of their human rights? I don’t think so. After all, they are in prison for a reason. They have lost many rights and privileges by being convicted and sentenced to prison in the first place. The real question is how the authorities intend to impose these restrictions effectively. So far they haven’t been doing such a great job.