SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Senate Bill 26, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday with unanimous bipartisan support. SB 26 would crack down on the smuggling and possession of cell phones and other wireless communication devices in California prisons. The bill now goes to the full Assembly for consideration.

Padilla’s bill imposes tough penalties for both smugglers and inmates. It also facilitates the deployment of managed access technology to prevent illicit cell phones from sending or receiving communications within the secure perimeter of a prison.

“We know that inmates with cell phones are ordering murders, organizing escapes, facilitating drug deals, controlling street gangs and terrorizing rape victims. With this bill we will finally crack down on cell phones in California prisons,” said Senator Padilla.

Senator Padilla has strong support from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in his effort to address the rampant problem of cell phone use in California’s prisons. “Contraband cell phones in prison continue to be a problem for CDCR as they allow inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and commit crimes,” said CDCR Secretary Matthew Cate. “This year we have confiscated 6,000 phones through May at our prisons. Senate Bill 26 will strengthen our efforts to curb this problem,” he added.

Last year, Governor Schwarzenegger inexplicitly vetoed a similar bill also authored by Padilla.  Undeterred, Padilla said he believes this year will be different because Governor Brown understands the problem and wants to fix it.  “Governor Brown previously served as California Attorney General.  He knows firsthand that prisoners are using cell phones to facilitate crimes in our communities,” said Padilla.

SB 26 would do the following:


  • Any person, employee or nonemployee, who possesses a cell phone with the intent to deliver, or delivers, to an inmate is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per device.

Inmate Possession

  • An inmate in possession of a cell phone shall be subject to permanent loss of good time credits.

Visitor Protection

  • The bill contains language protecting visitors from prosecution who inadvertently bring a cell phone into a prison without intent to deliver to an inmate.

Managed Access Technology

  • Facilitates CDCR’s implementation of technology to identify unauthorized cell phone signals and block the transmission of calls, texts, and emails.

Forty-four states and the federal government have taken action to tackle this problem.  The number of cell phones confiscated in our prisons has grown exponentially. In 2006, prison officials confiscated 261 cell phones in California prisons. In 2010, 10,761 phones were confiscated.  Smugglers are selling these phones to inmates for more than $1,000 a piece.  One person caught smuggling, bragged about making $100,000 in a single year providing cell phones to prisoners. Charles Manson had been caught twice in possession of a cell phone.

SB 26 is supported by the California Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, US Senator Diane Feinstein, California Peace Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, Crime Victims United, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, and the California District Attorneys’ Association, among others.