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.