View Mobile Site

Give a prisoner a cell & you should get put in a cell

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED May 1, 2009 3:02 a.m.
Prisoners have better healthcare than most taxpayers.

They even eat better than many who are law-abiding.

So why is anyone surprised that prisoners have easy access to cell phones?

More than 2,800 cell phones were confiscated last year from inmates in California prisons or hidden in and around cells.

You’re asking how the prisoners managed to get cell phones. According to state spokesmen, about half come from prison employees including the highly paid guards who can pocket another $100 to $400 by selling them.

You remember the prison guards, right? They’re the ones who ran those wonderfully inaccurate commercials saying how they had the most dangerous jobs in California a few years back so they could shake down the legislature for more money. Make no doubt about it that it is stressful to be a prison guard and it is a dangerous profession that they should be compensated fairly for doing. But a lot more men and women die patrolling the streets than they do working in prisons.

The union folks at the top used public sympathy to bully the politicians into making big concessions. You didn’t see other components of law enforcement do that.

So, you ask, what becomes of a prison guard who is pulling down big bucks and is caught pocketing an extra $400 to smuggle in a cell phone? The state says nothing although they depart through retirement or resignation.

A law proposed by State Sen. John Benoit, R-Bermuda Dunes, would change that somewhat. If his bill passes – and there is no opposition – it would mean prison guards would face misdemeanor criminal penalties and fines up to $5,000.

That is so wrong. It needs to be made a felony as cell phones could be used by gang members and other prisoners -  who already have been documented in some instances of directing criminal acts from behind bars – to facilitate more criminal acts on the outside populace by calling or texting their associates.

Maybe some legislator will have the courage to stand up and propose a law where any law enforcement officer convicted of a felony while in the line of duty or using the color of their authority would forfeit all retirement benefits. San Joaquin County has an ex-sheriff living high on the hog as his big fat pension was left intact after being convicted of a felony involving the use of his office and authority. He served time in prison for his crimes but that was it. His pension is the equivalent of what we pay 2.5 beginning teachers.

Zero tolerance toward crime should mean zero tolerance. And the penalties should be stiff.

Maybe just maybe some Sacramento politician might have the courage to seek an amendment to Benoit’s bill classifying the act of a prison guard or prison employee smuggling a phone to a prisoner as a felony punishable with a mandatory one-year prison sentence. That way the penalty fits the crime.

Having cell phones in the hands of inmates is an intolerable act. It is a serious breach of the public’s trust of those in law enforcement who serve in prison to not only smuggle them to prisoners but to also pocket upwards of $400.

It is also an affront to the honest hardworking men and women who are employed in our prisons.

In Benoit’s defense, he wants to make it a felony but he noted legislative leaders are not backing bills creating new felonies. Why? They are worried about prison overcrowding.

Shouldn’t they worry more about people who are hired to protect the people of California putting a potential instrument in the hands of a prisoner behind bars to direct crimes against them?

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...