Contraband cellphones are becoming so prevalent in California prisons that guards can’t keep them out of the hands of even the most notorious and violent inmates, including Charles Manson, who was caught with an LG flip phone under his prison mattress, says the Los Angeles Times. Manson made calls and sent text messages to people in California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia before officers discovered the phone, said a prison spokeswoman.
Although officials say inmates use smuggled cellphones for all manner of criminal activity, including running drug rings from behind bars, intimidating witnesses and planning escapes, it is not a crime to possess one in a California prison. In August, President Obama signed a bill banning cellphones from federal prisons and making it a crime, punishable by up to a year in jail, to smuggle one in. That law does not apply to state institutions. The proliferation of cellphones in California prisons has been exponential in recent years, authorities say. Guards found 1,400 in 2007, 6,995 in 2009 and 8,675 so far this year.