Lawmakers craft plan to keep cellphones off inmates

March 22, 2011 7:04:20 PM PDT
California lawmakers are trying to figure out how to keep cellphones out of the hands of prison inmates who use them for all sorts of illegal purposes.

Nearly 2,000 cell phones were confiscated by the California Corrections Department from inmates in the first two months of this year alone. Over the years, the problem has gotten so bad even notorious mass murderer Charles Manson was caught twice with a cell phone.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, is trying for the third time to pass a law that cracks down on illegal cell phones in California prisons by going after both the smuggler and the inmate with misdemeanor charges that involve jail time and stiff fines. In fact, inmates could get up to another five years.

"Nowhere in the nation is the problem bigger than it is right now here in the state of California. Yet since 2006 we have failed to act," he said.

Even the California Corrections Dept. is begging for help because they know what inmates can do with a cell phone. But because of California's prison overcrowding problem, bills calling for enhanced sentences are tough to pass. The Senate Public Safety Committee has a ban on anything that adds to the overcrowding. The Committee Chairwoman asked to remove that added five year sentence.

In the end, a watered down proposal passed with an inmate losing up to 6 months of good time credit for possessing a cell phone.

Karen Carrisosa says it's better than nothing. Her husband's killer was recently caught with a smartphone while updating his Facebook page.

"It's like a kick in the face, really. He took my husband. He shouldn't have those leisures of a phone," she said.

The California Corrections Department is trying new technology that blocks unauthorized cell phone calls from prison. In one day, in one yard, the system detected nearly 500 devices and blocked more than 4,000 attempts to text, make calls, or get on the Internet.


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