Tag Archives: California

Jerry Brown Signs Prison Cellphone Bill

cell phone 190195 300x300 Jerry Brown Signs Prison Cellphone BillThis bill and associated executive order are an attempt to hinder the smuggling of contraband cell phones into California prisons. These legislative efforts may slow the supply of cell phones, but they will not eliminate it.

Just as illegal drugs continue to flow into prisons around the country, contraband cell phone smuggling is supply meeting demand. Until a strategy to address the fundamental demand for more communications between prisoners and their loved ones is also addressed, the contraband value of smuggled cell phones will remain high and supply will continue flow into prisons. The meshDETECT secure cell phone solution can be a part of that demand-side strategy.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this morning toughening restrictions on illicit cellphones in prisons, and he ordered prison officials to step up efforts to confiscate smuggled phones.

Senate Bill 26, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, makes it a misdemeanor to deliver a cellphone to a prison inmate, among other things. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it was too soft on inmates who carry phones and on guards and others who smuggle them.

Brown also issued an executive order instructing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to increase physical searches of people who enter prisons and to develop a system to interrupt unauthorized cellphone calls.

Brown said in his order that prison staff discovered nearly 10,700 contraband cellular devices in 2010, and 7,300 in the first half of this year.

“Prisons exist to remove individuals from our communities who would otherwise do harm to their fellow citizens,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “When criminals in prison get possession of a cell phone, it subverts the very purpose of incarceration. They use these phones to organize gang activity, intimidate witnesses and commit crimes. Today’s action will help to break up an expanding criminal network and protect law-abiding Californians.”

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Cellphone Bills Should Be Laws

smuggled phones FBOP 300x298 Cellphone Bills Should Be LawsThis editorial discusses the three cell phone bills working their way through the California legislature. Certainly making it a misdemeanor to smuggle a cell phone and permitting random monthly searches of prison employees for contraband will help prevent some the contraband wireless phones from making it into prison, but it certainly won’t stop all cell phones in jail.

The question then becomes what strategy is deployed to address the rest of the problem? Expensive and complex cell phone jammers and wireless managed access systems? Perhaps a different approach, one that tackles demand, rather than supply, might be worth investigating?

Amid the last-minute flurry of bills moving through the Legislature to the governor’s desk, three simple measures dealing with cellphones deserve to become law.

Two of them tackle the problem of the phones getting into the hands of state prisoners, some of whom use them to direct criminal enterprises from behind bars.

And the third deals with protecting the content of cellphones from warrantless searches by police.

In December, it came out that mass murderer Charles Manson was sending texts to people outside prison from a cellphone he had hidden under his mattress. And that came after the 2009 revelation that he was using a cellphone to call cronies in six states.

Last month, Facebook agreed to take down pages belonging to prisoners who have been updating their pages since going to prison – through their smartphones, of course.

More than 10,000 cellphones were confiscated from prisoners in 2010, compared to 261 in 2006. In some if not many of those cases, those phones have been smuggled in to prisoners by guards.

Senate Bill 26, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, would make it a misdemeanor to smuggle a cellphone into a state prison, with penalties of up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

S.B. 139 by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, would permit random monthly searches of prison employees for contraband.

Both those bills passed the state Senate in June – by identical 39-0 votes – and should be expected to pass the Assembly and go to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk this week.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed essentially the same bill by Padilla, saying he did so because the penalties were not strong enough; he wanted violation to constitute a felony. Brown should sign this time – some penalty is a better disincentive than none at all.

The third bill already has been sent to Brown. S.B. 914 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would overturn a California Supreme Court decision handed down in January. That ruling, in People v. Gregory Diaz, allows police, when making an arrest, to seize a suspect’s cell phone and conduct a search of messages, phone calls and data sent and received.

S.B. 914 would require police to get a warrant before searching a cell phone or other such communication device. It was approved by a 70-0 vote in the Assembly last month.

California Newspaper Publishers Association sponsored the bill because, under the Diaz decision, police could – without a warrant – search the phone of a reporter arrested while covering a riot, say, looking for unpublished information and confidential sources, which would be a way around the California Shield Law.

As attorney general, Brown supported the Supreme Court decision allowing warrantless searches.

As governor, he should sign S.B. 914, upholding the principle that police must obtain a warrant before searching a citizen’s private communications.

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Contraband Prison Cell Phone Video

A series of video news reports on the problem of smuggled prison cell phones in California. This report includes an interesting interview with a prisoner (via his contraband phone!) claiming that most of the contraband cell phones come from the prison guards and that most of the prisoners use the phones to stay in contact with friends and family rather than to plan crimes.

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Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Called ‘Out Of Control’

cell phone smuggling 300x177 Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Called Out Of Control This article on California’s contraband prison cell phone problem speaks for itself…But a key statement is, “Both prison officials and inmates we spoke with agreed that a large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones.” A secure prison cell phone service will reduce the contraband value of smuggled cell phones and allow detainees to keep in contact with loved ones.

The smuggling of cell phones into California’s state prisons has exploded since KCRA 3 first documented this story a year ago.

“We know the problem is out of control,” State Sen. Alex Padilla said.

In 2007, nearly 1,400 cell phones were seized, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In 2010, the number of contraband cell phones discovered had exploded to 10,761, according to the CDCR.

CDCR spokesperson Paul Verke said that better detection, including the use of specially trained dog teams, has played a role in the increasing numbers.

However, one inmate told KCRA 3 that prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in on smuggled phones that can fetch between $200 to $800.

“The staff are bringing them in,” Dwight Debose said.

“It happens, but it is very rare. We’re talking four to five staff a year that we discover and dismiss as a result of their actions,” said Folsom Prison Warden Rick Hill.

Both prison officials and inmates we spoke with agreed that a large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones. But, there have been documented cases of escape attempts, drug deals and conference calls coordinated via smuggled cell phones, according to CDCR sources.

“The potential is there for the worst kind of activity,” Hill said.

One of the problems is that it is not illegal for someone to smuggle a cell phone into a state prison, said Padilla. Because of that fact, he believes the potential profit of black market phones is worth risking termination of employment. Because of that he has proposed making such smuggling illegal in hopes of stopping the continued rise of contraband cell phones in prison.

“If you are caught smuggling a cell phone into prison, you’re going to serve time too. Or, certainly pay a steep, steep fine,” added Padilla.

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Prison Cell Phones Become Hottest Contraband Commodity

Mobile Phone Detector Used in Prisons Prison Cell Phones Become Hottest Contraband CommodityA visit to California State Prison Corcoran was cut short Sunday when investigators smelled marijuana on a woman as she passed through security, a prison spokeswoman said.

Tisha Diane Holt was found with more than 2 ounces of concentrated marijuana hidden in her belongings. She consented to a search by prison staff and was arrested when they found the drugs, prison spokeswoman Teresa Cisneros said.

Holt, a certified nursing assistant from Los Angeles, was booked into custody for suspicion of conspiring to commit a crime and seven narcotics-related charges, including a special allegation of supplying a controlled substance.

She remained at the Kings County Jail with her bail set at $230,000 Monday.

This arrest was not the first time this year someone has been arrested for prison drug smuggling in Kings County.

The number reached 10 in March when Corcoran Prison’s Investigative Services Unit and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office busted two people for conspiring to smuggle drugs and cell phones into the facility.

Contraband continues to be a major problem for prisons across the state, with cell phones quickly becoming the hottest commodity. State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, said earlier this year that more than 10,000 cell phones were confiscated in state prisons during 2010 alone.

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