The following article discusses the contraband cell phone legislation now moving through the California legislature. According to the article, a guard who was caught smuggling cell phones into prison, “boasted that he made more than $100,000 a year selling mobile devices to inmates.” A typical guard makes $60,000 per year in salary. A phone can net up to $1,000 on the prison black market and 6,000 were been found during the first five months of 2011. This bill may stop some from trying to smuggle a cell phone into prison, but like drug smuggling, if there is demand, especially at $1000 per wireless phone, there will be supply. The only way to suppress demand is to co-opt it by providing a secure cell phone solution to prisoners that siphons off demand and reduces the value of a smuggled cell phone.
Smuggling cells phones into California correctional facilities has become so commonplace that even Charlie Manson got caught twice with one, and now the state legislature is taking a step toward preventing further proliferation of the devices behind bars.
An Assembly committee Thursday approved a proposal designed to crack down on both smuggling and possession of cell phones and other wireless communication devices by inmates. The bill, SB26 (Padilla, D-Pacoima), has already passed the Senate and now goes to the lower house for a vote.
CalCoastNews reported in July about an incident of prison smuggling being related to prison staff as the Padilla bill progresses. Surveillance video at the California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo County captured a correctional officer smuggling a cell phone into the prison.
Soon thereafter, the accused guard retired and allegedly boasted that he made more than $100,000 a year selling mobile devices to inmates. A phone can net up to $1,000 on the prison black market.
Until recently, a correctional officer caught smuggling would simply retire, quietly, unpunished. Inmates found their phones removed and certain privileges revoked.
Padilla said that more than 10,750 contraband phones were taken from state prisoners in 2010, and that another 6,000 were been found during the first five months of 2011.
“We know that inmates with cell phones are ordering murders, organizing escapes, facilitating drug deals, controlling street gangs and terrorizing rape victims. With this bill we will finally crack down on cell phones in California prisons,” the lawmaker said.
The proposal raises the penalty for smuggling a cell phone to a prisoner to six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 for each device.
Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill without explanation.
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