Manson, 76, ordered the killings of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969 and he will probably live out his days at Corcoran State Prison, but a cell phone getting into his hands shows how out of control the problem is.
Specially-trained dogs are playing a key role in finding smuggled cell phones inside California state prisons. The contraband cell phone problem is so bad, officials can't even keep them from notorious mass murderer Charles Manson. He made calls and texted people in Massachusetts, Florida and California from his prison cell.
"It's very troubling. This is someone who got other people to murder on his behalf and unfortunately, people are still fascinated," says Terry Thornton from the California Corrections Department.
One of Manson's friends released a phone conversation to entertainment show Inside Edition; four days later guards found an LG Flip phone under his mattress. Manson got 30 days added to his sentence.
In a phone recording Manson said, "I've seen the world spinning on fire. I've danced and sang in the devil's choir."
Prison searches netted 1,400 cell phones statewide in 2007. This year, the number is approaching 9,000. And they're being found everywhere. For example, one scan shows a phone inside a body cavity. They're also inside cakes that visitors bring in. Gang members and other violent criminals have been known to order hits from inside prison walls.
"They plan escapes and coordinate escapes with them. We have evidence of this. We have evidence that they threaten witnesses, threaten victims," says Thornton. Cell phones are a premium, fetching as much as $1,000 each. One corrections officer, who has since been fired, made $140,000 one year smuggling the devices to inmates.
"They can hide them virtually anyway. They have 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to figure out where to hide them," says Acting Prison Warden Tim Virga.
Inmates told ABC7 they need cell phones to avoid high fees when making collect calls from pay phones and contact helps them maintain their family bonds.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill this year that would have imposed a $5,000 fine on cell phone smugglers, but he thought that was too light when compared to smuggling a can of beer into prison, which is a misdemeanor. Lawmakers will try again next year to tackle the problem under a new governor.