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Guards not source of smuggled cell phones
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Editor, Manteca
I am a correctional officer (you calls us guards) working in one of the institutions in the State of California.  I have sworn an oath to uphold the law and to protect the citizenry.  I find your comments about “cell phones in prison” to be both misinformed and naive.  

You state that “prison guards” can easily pocket an extra “100 to 400 dollars” from the selling of the phones.  That part is true, but you fail to mention that a correctional officer could just as easily lose his job which pays far more than the $100 or $400 that he can get from selling a cell phone to an inmate.  Further you fail to mention that virtually all correctional officers view these dishonest officers as “slugs” and “vermin.”  That means that if an officer is seen giving/selling a cell phone to an inmate by another correctional officer, the dirty “cop” would be turned in without hesitation.  In fact, in the old days (I mean in the early 70’s and before) the dirty officer might even have had some “parking lot counseling,” (but those days are gone).  If there are dirty cops that are bringing in phones for inmate use (and I am sure there could be a “few”) then they should be prosecuted according to the law.  But now to burst your bubble.

It has been my experience that more often than not it is free staff, dirty attorneys, and inmate family members/visitors who bring in the majority of cell phones not correctional officers.  Attorneys bring them in during visits (we are not allowed to sit in during attorney visits) which the inmate will usually “keister.”  And family members will bring them in during family visits and/or regular visits (again the inmate has ample time to secrete a phone during a family visit, and with practice, even a regular visit).  Now, what becomes of a family member/visitor who brings in a cell phone?  Well usually it means that they are merely “denied” visits.  And what happens to the dirty attorney?  I have yet to read of an attorney doing time for bringing in cell phones.  Heck, I haven’t even heard or read of an attorney even being disbarred for such an indiscretion.  

And as for staff bringing in phones, it is my experience that free staff (especially those that work in drug rehab programs) are caught bringing in cells phones more often than correctional officers.  And what happens to these dirty free staff workers?  Well they “might” lose their jobs.  All too often, however, nothing occurs due to faulty investigations.

Oh, and let us not forget about the inmate.  You know the ultimate user of the phone.  What happens to him?  After all, he is the one utilizing the instrument meant for planning more criminal activities.  Well, when caught he now must face the “horrible” consequence of having to wait a few more days until he can be allowed parole!  Yeah that is right.  His consequence only involves a delay of a few days before he paroles and that is it!  Oh, and if he is a good boy for a short period of time (no more than 3 months) then he can get that time back.  Hmm..., sounds like a fair deal for the inmate.  Yeah, let’s just go after the “guard” and let the inmate skate with no consequences.

I agree if anyone is caught illegally possessing a phone (inmates) or bringing in a phone (all people) there should be severe penalties (criminal “felony” charges).  But to focus only on the correctional officers and not share justice to all (especially since other groups bring in a “heck of a lot” more phones than correctional officers) involved in this activity is to be capricious and disingenuous.
Antonio Barron
May 6, 2009