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Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Out of Control 428

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-else-can-they-play-angry-birds dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "KCRA reports that the number of contraband cell phones discovered in California state prisons has exploded as prison guards, staff and vendors are cashing in on smuggled phones that can fetch between $200 and $800. Although the large majority of inmates are using the phones to stay in contact with loved ones, there have been documented cases of escape attempts, drug deals and conference calls coordinated via smuggled cell phones. 'The potential is there for the worst kind of activity,' says Folsom Prison Warden Rick Hill. Even Charles Manson has been caught with a cellphone smuggled to him. 'We know the problem is out of control,' says State Senator Alex Padilla, who has proposed making such smuggling illegal in hopes of stopping the continued rise of contraband cell phones in prison."
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Prison Cell Phone Smuggling Out of Control

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  • Re:A "problem?" (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaggieL (10193) on Friday February 04, 2011 @11:36AM (#35103814)

    A guard caught with a cell phone gets administrative punishment under union rules. A guard caught with drugs goes down for a felony and loses his job.

  • Re:Great idea! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377@gm a i l . c om> on Friday February 04, 2011 @11:43AM (#35103874) Homepage

    Legislation tends to just add a force multiplier to an existing crime. For instance; Drug free school zones don't magically stop drugs from being sold, but they add a nice "and" to the existing charges, which in turn makes it harder to plead down.

    In this case, legislation *is* needed. If I sneak a hundred cell phones into a prison at 800 bucks a pop, my only crime currently would be not declaring the additional $80,000 in income on my taxes. (Sorta like Al Capone. He was never nailed for bootlegging / extortion / murder, he was nailed for being a used furniture dealer who was making several hundred thousand dollars a year and not paying income tax on it.) As of now, the only person who gets punished is the inmate themselves. The smuggler did nothing illegal.

  • Re:Proposed? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mellon (7048) on Friday February 04, 2011 @11:44AM (#35103892) Homepage

    You could RTFA... :)

    It's not illegal to possess cell phones or bring them into California prisons, although it is illegal for federal prisons.

  • Re:OR (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <> on Friday February 04, 2011 @11:53AM (#35103986) Homepage Journal

    They kinda do that here in Florida. Some prisons have their own microcell that grabs the signal from any cell phone in use on the prison grounds. If you aren't using an authorized phone, the signal doesn't go out & the guards are alerted.

  • by the_olo (160789) on Friday February 04, 2011 @11:56AM (#35104012) Homepage

    Better yet, make the prison a non-GSM zone, deinstalling BTS-es and/or screening/jamming the radio signals. Make the staff and inmates use landlines for phone communication.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:00PM (#35104038) Homepage Journal

    Make the prices more reasonable, drop the "no cell phones" thing, and have some way for people to call the prisoners (or at least tell them to call home beyond sending them a letter) and the demand for cell phones will drop.

    Dropping the restriction on cellular phones is not the answer, because they can be (and are) used for illegal activities and that should simply not be permitted while in prison.

    Beyond that, simply get a scanner that detects the frequencies used by cell phones, install a few of them around the prison, and when they go off if the system is properly designed it could tell a guard immediately and tell them approximately where the phone is in the jail.

    Better yet: a handful of microcells deployed in the prison could ensure that phones connect to them first and betray their precise location. But it would probably be sufficient simply to use jamming. Guards don't need cellphones while they're at work; they can receive emergency calls via the prison phone system, they don't need to be making personal calls on your time, and they can use radios to communicate with one another inside the prison in a way that won't provide a prisoner with a cellphone should they lose it or have it stolen.

    I agree with what you say about prisons treating prisoners as a cost center, but our society is very much going the other direction, with more private prisons and even privatization of existing prisons: unabashed state-sponsored slavery.

  • Re:Deregulation (Score:4, Informative)

    by RogerWilco (99615) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:05PM (#35104106) Homepage Journal

    You are correct.

    The USA has by far the highest percentage of it's population in prison, the longest and toughest penalties (Including the death penalty!) of anywhere in the civilized world.

    It also has some of the highest crime and murder rates in the world.

    But statistics doesn't get you votes.

  • Re:Deregulation (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday February 04, 2011 @12:55PM (#35104608)

    If the death penalty was executed (heh heh) in a reasonable timeframe - ie, without a gazillion appeals and stays, then you'd probably find conservatives more willing to discuss lightening up on prison treatment.

    The death penalty is idiotic. First, it simply doesn't work as an effective deterrent to crime as numerous studies have shown. People are too stupidly optimistic so the death penalty results in increased rates of murder and violent crime because stupidly optimistic criminals suddenly believe they have nothing to lose by trying to shoot their way out of bad situations and kill anyone who could be a witness. Second, while from a "justice" standpoint and a "cost effective" standpoint it could be supported, that assumes out legal system is actually effective at convicting the right person and that is clearly not the case. When fingerprints came into general use by law enforcement, we were able to show many people had been wrongly convicted including a significant number of supposed murderers. When DNA testing became affordable, again, dozens of convicted murderers, some on death row, some already executed are proved innocent. Why then would any reasonable person assume that our criminal justice system in general is not regularly convicting a significant number of innocent people? You think it is okay then, to kill those people knowing that later on they may be proved innocent?

    If the police and lawyers and forensic scientists in our criminal justice system were honest and obeyed the law and proper procedure in obtaining convictions, then maybe we could implement the death penalty in a just fashion, but the truth is, we regularly convict innocent people because the system is designed to reward convictions and not punish convictions of the innocent. Hell, groups like the Innocence Project are fighting the courts for the right to test the DNA of convicted persons. Why would anyone interested in justice oppose more accurate forensic investigation of serious crime? Now that DNA evidence is a known quantity, it is certainly fabricated or falsified just like fingerprints were and we will have to wait for the next disruptive forensic technology the police don't know about yet to exonerate those innocent people in prison more recently. With such a broken legal system, I find it dishonorable and unjust to advocate for the death penalty. Doing so is quite clearly advocating for the murder of innocent people convicted by corrupt or simply lazy law enforcement.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters. -- Jean-Paul Kauffmann