Say what? Prisoners’ phones in jeopardy

August 27, 2011

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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Goodness gracious this is ridiculous. Electronically JAM the cell usage and be done with it.

Why not put up a tag so that any phone activity that GPS’s within the confined is squelched or will that squelch the cash flow too.

Once again, if those paying back their debt to society were making big rocks into little rocks there would be no time for cell phones…

Doesn’t matter who brings em in, they should not have any personal devices of any kind, use a pay phone once a week, period.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill because 1, the prison guard union has bought and paid for every Calif Governor in the history of represented prison guards and 2, no one paid any attention to the scam until some REAL reporter brought it to everyone’s attention. The media giants of California are lazy and in love with criminals.

Any cell phone found and confiscated should be used to call the most expensive number on the planet. The charges to some remote island could be thousands of dollars. Whoever is paying the bill for the phone would be paying a huge price for providing it to an inmate. The taxes and fees from such a phone bill would stimulate part of the economy.

So BART can shut down all cell phones of all free and innocent citizens within a certain area whether you are actually doing anything they approve of or not, and yet with all the money we dump into the prison systems they can’t manage to accomplish that in a prison? Let me fill you in on a little reality. An individual can build a device to block cell phones from instructions available online in under an hour, maybe a few hours if you include a trip to the parts store. This isn’t a “difficult” problem or anything of that nature. This isn’t “poor management.” This is intentional negligence.

Anybody in a decision making capacity in any prison which has had any ongoing problems with cellphone use should immediately be fired. They should be happy they were not caught with their hands in the cookie jar benefiting from whatever activities were facilitated by prisoners with cell phones under their watch. Because if they have not been doing anything illegal, then they are grossly incompetent and totally unqualified to be in a position that pays more than minimum wage.

They are L-Y-I-N-G about the nature of this problem.

The FCC does not look kindly on intentional jamming. Nor do the prison’s neighbors or anyone who happens to be within line-of-sight of the jamming station. You see, RF from your home-built signal generator does not stop cleanly at the end of the prison grounds. Also, if the device is as crude as you describe, the signal doesn’t neatly stop at the edges of the cell bands. If you built something like that at the CMC, you would be seeing dropped calls all the way over at Cal Poly.

Here’s a better idea: Use direction-finding equipment to pinpoint (and rf-fingerprint) phones that are operating inside the prison. Seize the offending devices as soon as anyone is dumb enough to turn them on.

Or, an even better idea: Throw the smugglers into prison.

The FCC didn’t seem to care about it when it was being on law abiding citizens by BART. That aside, it’s easy enough to use more devices with a shorter range to accomplish this, or install some kind of metal lattice work in the building structure to create a Faradays cage, and then use repeaters to ensure signals you WANT to pass through the walls still can. I was also not suggesting they use such a crude device, merely illustrating that the necessary technology was fairly simple. Technically speaking, there are no insurmountable problems to overcome in order to block those calls. Your idea of using direction finding equipment is good as well.

And I totally agree with you on throwing the smugglers in prison. I’m curious what has been happening with past cases, and whether these people have been shielded by their union.


A jamming system could easily be set-up to jam the different CMC units and nothing more. There would be very little bleed.

I do agree though. The baseline penalty should be getting fired, loss of retirement and 1 year in state prison.

““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.”

Get them, aren’t they in jail should be an easy task, boys.

Prison guards caught smuggling phones and drugs into prisons should be fired and their pension revoked!

These guards who are smuggling this contraband deserve more than 6 months in jail. When these prisoners have free access to outside communication, it creates a dangerous situation for many innocent parties. When they plan escapes, they frequently plan them around a time when they will be transported under guard to a court house, medical facility or otherwise. These escapes often require shooting the guards. I would give anyone caught selling a cell phone to an inmate more like 3 years in jail and loss of all benefits apart from the portion of their retirement benefits that they paid for out of their own pockets.