Truesee's Daily Wonder

Truesee presents the weird, wild, wacky and world news of the day.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Charles Manson had a flip cell phone in his prison cell

Lawmakers say guards union is a key obstacle in effort to keeping cellphones out of prisons


The guards' contract has a clause that would cost the state millions if they had to be stopped and searched on the way into work, lawmakers say, and it's prison workers who are mainly to blame for inmates like Charles Manson possessing phones.


Jack Dolan

Los Angeles Times

February 3, 2011, 1:48 p.m.

Reporting from Sacramento —

Lawmakers struggling to keep cellphones away from California's most dangerous inmates say a main obstacle is the politically powerful prison guards union, whose members would have to be paid millions of dollars extra to be searched on their way into work.

Prison employees, roughly half of whom are unionized guards, are the main source of smuggled phones that inmates use to run drugs and other crimes, according to legislative analysts who examined the problem last year. Unlike visitors, staff can enter the facilities without passing through metal detectors.

While union officials' stated position is that they do not necessarily oppose searches, they point to a clause in their contract that requires corrections officers to be paid for "walk time" – the minutes it takes them to get from the parking lot to their posts behind prison walls.

Putting metal detectors along the route, with an airport-like regimen involving removal of steel-toed boots and equipment-laden belts, could double the walk time, adding several million dollars to officers' collective pay each year, according to a 2008 Senate analysis.

Since then, cellphones have proliferated exponentially in California's state lockups. This year, state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to "put the [search] issue on the table" in contract negotiations with the California Correctional Peace Officer Assn.

"Everybody coming into the state Capitol building has to go through a metal detector….You even get searched when you go to a Lakers game," said Padilla, who for three years has sponsored unsuccessful legislation to crack down on the contraband phones. "Why don't we have that requirement at correctional facilities, of all places?"

Brown, whose campaign received generous financial support from the union and who made one of his few public appearances between the November election and his January inauguration at the union's annual convention in Las Vegas, would not say whether searches are under review.

"Our office does not discuss the details of pending contract negotiations," said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup, who noted that the prison system is testing technology to block cellphone calls in prisons.

More than 10,000 cell phones made their way into California prisons last year -- up from 1,400 in 2007, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. Two of those wound up in the hands of Charles Manson, who is serving a life sentence for ordering the ritualistic murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in 1969.

The phones can fetch as much as $1,000 each behind prison walls, according to a recent state inspector general's report, which detailed how a corrections officer made $150,000 in a single year smuggling phones to inmates. He was fired but was not prosecuted because it is not currently against the law to take cellphones into prison, although it is a violation of prison rules to possess them behind bars.

Padilla had a bill in 2008 that would have required searches of prison staff, but it died after union officials pointed out the extra pay that would follow.

This year, Padilla, who also gets financial support from the union, has steered clear of it by omitting staff searches from a bill that would impose a $5,000 fine on anyone caught trying to smuggle a phone to an inmate. The proposal would also lengthen sentences for prisoners caught with phones by up to five years if it can be shown that they used them to commit crimes.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year, saying the penalties weren't stiff enough.

Such punishment might not deter an inmate like Manson, who in all likelihood will die in prison, but the threat of added time might make other prisoners think twice about keeping a phone, Padilla said.

Prison officials added 30 days to Manson's sentence after guards found an LG flip phone under his mattress in March 2009. They found him with a second phone, equipped with a camera, on Jan. 6, Thornton said. She declined to provide details about where Manson got the phone, saying the case is still under investigation.

Analysts for the Senate Public Safety Committee who studied last year's legislation left no room for doubt about who they believed was responsible for most of the unauthorized phones.

"All indications are that the primary source of cellphones being smuggled into prisons is prison staff," they wrote. "The committee has been presented no evidence of visitors who are properly screened through metal detectors being responsible for the problem."

Guard union spokesman JeVaughn Baker said pointing the finger at corrections officers is all wrong.

"Sure, there are instances where officers have brought them in," Baker said. "But to say that prison staff are the most likely smugglers of cellphones is simply inaccurate."

Asked whether union members would be willing to forgo extra pay for standing in line at metal detectors, Baker said, "The law demands that individuals are compensated for the time that they work."

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home


June 2021   May 2021   April 2021   March 2021   February 2021   January 2021   December 2020   November 2020   October 2020   September 2020   August 2020   July 2020   June 2020   May 2020   April 2020   March 2020   February 2020   January 2020   December 2019   November 2019   October 2019   September 2019   August 2019   July 2019   June 2019   May 2019   April 2019   March 2019   February 2019   January 2019   December 2018   November 2018   October 2018   September 2018   August 2018   July 2018   June 2018   May 2018   April 2018   March 2018   February 2018   January 2018   December 2017   November 2017   October 2017   September 2017   August 2017   July 2017   June 2017   May 2017   April 2017   March 2017   February 2017   January 2017   December 2016   November 2016   October 2016   September 2016   August 2016   July 2016   June 2016   May 2016   April 2016   March 2016   February 2016   January 2016   December 2015   November 2015   October 2015   September 2015   August 2015   July 2015   June 2015   May 2015   April 2015   March 2015   February 2015   January 2015   December 2014   November 2014   October 2014   September 2014   August 2014   July 2014   June 2014   May 2014   April 2014   March 2014   February 2014   January 2014   December 2013   November 2013   October 2013   September 2013   August 2013   July 2013   June 2013   May 2013   April 2013   March 2013   February 2013   January 2013   December 2012   November 2012   October 2012   September 2012   August 2012   July 2012   June 2012   May 2012   April 2012   March 2012   February 2012   January 2012   December 2011   November 2011   October 2011   September 2011   August 2011   July 2011   June 2011   May 2011   April 2011   March 2011   February 2011   January 2011   December 2010   November 2010   October 2010   September 2010   August 2010   July 2010   June 2010   May 2010   April 2010   March 2010   February 2010   January 2010   December 2009   November 2009   October 2009   September 2009   August 2009   July 2009   June 2009   May 2009   April 2009   March 2009   February 2009   January 2009   December 2008  

Powered by Lottery PostSyndicated RSS FeedSubscribe