Sentencing / Post-Conviction

Unable to Prevent Inmate Cellphone Smuggling, Calif. Ponders Plan to Jam Prison Cellphone Calls


Unable to prevent inmates from smuggling cellphones into prison, where some 10,000 were confiscated in 2010, the state of California is poised to try another potential solution—jamming prison cellphone calls.

The expensive equipment needed to prevent cellphone calls from being made is expected to be supplied by the same company that wins a lucrative contract to provide pay phone call service to inmates, reports the Los Angeles Times.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, even notorious convicted “Helter Skelter” slayer Charles Manson reportedly managed to get his hands on an illicit cellphone. For doing so, he was sentenced to an extra 30 days on top of his original life sentence. Subsequently, he was found with another illicit cellphone.

Although the devices pose a threat to prison security, lawmakers in the cash-crunched state have been reluctant to make it illegal to possess one while incarcerated because of the costs associated with prosecuting violations.

Inmate advocates oppose the idea because of the cost to those who use the pay phones.

“When the prison system gives the phone company a monopoly, they jack up the price,” Margaret Winter of the American Civil Liberties Union tells the newspaper. She is associate director of the group’s national prison project.

“What we want to do is encourage more contact,” says Winter, pointing to good relationships between inmates and their families as “a prime predictor” of their ability to succeed at staying on course after they are released.

Related earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “‘Helter Skelter’ Slayer Charles Manson Chats on ‘Cell’ Phone, Gets Extra 30 Days on Life Term”

ABAJournal.com: “Hit with 30 Extra Days on Life Term for Cellphone, Helter-Skelter Slayer Manson Is Found with a 2nd”

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