New bill aims to stop cell phone smuggling in prison

shawshank-redemption-cell-phones

Prisoners should face steeper penalties if they are caught with a cell phone, says one California lawmaker. State Sen. Alex Padilla plans to introduce a bill (Senate Bill 26) in the coming weeks that would add 2-5 years onto the sentence of inmates in state prisons if they are caught using the phone “to facilitate a crime.” The bill would also make smuggling a cell phone to an inmate a misdemeanor for guards and visitors, with a $5,000 maximum fine.

This announcement comes a day after reports that Charles Manson, a mass murderer from the 60s, was caught with a cell phone under his mattress. This is the second time in two years that Manson has been caught with a phone. More than 10,000 cell phones were discovered in California prisons 2010 alone, and the number keeps rising. In 2007, only 1,400 such devices were seized.

Inmates pay as much as $1,000 for a working device obtaining phones from corrupt guards and visitors. One guard made as much as $150,000 a year smuggling phones, reports the LA Times. Though that inmate lost his job, he was not charged with a crime. Under current state law, it is not illegal to bring cell phones into prison, though it is against prison rules.

Last August, President Obama signed a bill banning cell phones from federal prisons, making the act of smuggling an offense punishable by up to a year in jail (hopefully with no cell phone). Sadly, the law does not affect state prisons. Sen. Padilla introduced bills to eliminate cellphones in 2009 and 2007 as well, but his pleas have not been heard by the California state legislature. Part of the problem: the prison guards union is asking for millions in extra pay for the time it would take to be searched for cell phones and other devices whenever the guards arrive at work.

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