When they say that these days, everyone has a cell phone, they might be right.
Prison authorities have caught notorious and high-security inmate Charles Manson with a cell phone in prison. He evidently used the phone to call and text people in California, New Jersey, Florida and Canada before authorities found the LG flip phone under his mattress.
The idea of a man imprisoned for gruesome multiple murders being able to access and use a cell phone in prison is scary. More frightening though, is the fact that use of a contraband cell phone by an inmate in a California prison is not currently a crime, reports The Los Angeles Times. Earlier this year, President Obama signed a federal law making cell phones illegal in federal prisons and making it a crime to smuggle one in. Currently, California has no such law.
The number of cell phones used by prisoners to threaten witnesses, run drug-rings and even orchestrate escapes, is raising rapidly, reports The Times. In 2007, the first year confiscations were recorded, guards found 1,400. This year, the number is up to 8,675. So why isn't it a crime to smuggle a cell phone into a California prison? Just months ago, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have imposed a fine on anyone caught smuggling a cell phone into a prison in the state. According to the Governor, he vetoed the law because the penalty was less than for smuggling a can of beer.
The problem is obviously serious, but levying a prison sentence for smuggling phones would only add to California's prison population, a result California cannot afford. The case regarding the lack of medical care in the state's over-crowded prisons is currently before the Supreme Court. However, telecommunications companies say they have the answer.
The Times reports that jamming cell phone signals in prison areas could address the problem, but legitimate users in the area might be affected, say phone companies. In Mississippi, a program called "managed access" went into effect in August. In prison areas, only calls from phones with approved numbers can be made. Mississippi prison authorities say they blocked 216,000 unauthorized calls under this system. The program was paid for by Global Tel Link, a company that charges inmates to make calls from prisons in many states across the country. California will test this system next year.
Even if that program sounds too much like a conveniently symbiotic relationship, some change must be made. What happened to Manson, a feared and hated criminal, after he was caught with the contraband cell phone in prison? He received an extra 30 days on his sentence and was "counseled and reprimanded."
- Charles Manson had cell phone under prison mattress (MSNBC)
- Rights of Inmates (FindLaw)
- California Ordered to Trim Prison Population (FindLaw's Blotter)