CA lawmaker aims to outlaw cell phones for inmates

Attempt to outlaw cell phones renewed after Charles Manson was discovered with a phone in his cell

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California lawmaker said Friday he will renew an attempt to make it illegal for prison inmates to have cell phones after a newspaper reported cult killer Charles Manson was once caught with one in prison.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said he will introduce his bill for a third time. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the last effort, saying it did too little to deter smuggling.

Padilla issued his statement after the Los Angeles Times reported that Manson was caught with a cell phone in March 2009.

Manson was discovered calling and texting from Corcoran State Prison to people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia, corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said. His cell phone showed missed calls from Florida, Massachusetts, Arkansas and Indiana.

It's not clear how long Manson had the phone or how the people who called him got his number, Thornton said. His phone was confiscated, and she said he has not been caught with one in the 21 months since.

Inmates have used smuggled phones to arrange escapes and assaults on other prisoners, The Associated Press said in an April 2009 story about the growing problems of thousands of cell phones being smuggled into California prisons.

Employees caught bringing in phones can be fired, and inmates such as Manson who are caught with them can be disciplined.

Padilla wants to make the practice illegal.

Thornton said Manson's phone was discovered during a random cell search. A visitor is believed to have smuggled in the phone, she said.

"It was mine. I'm a thief, it's all mine," Manson said at his disciplinary hearing in April 2009, Thornton quoted from a transcript.

Manson is serving a life sentence for a series of 1969 killings including the infamous murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles.

He lost 30 days of early release credits and was barred from buying goods at the prison store for 90 days after the cell phone was discovered.

"It's almost meaningless in his case," Thornton said in advocating for making cell phone possession and smuggling illegal.

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