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Prison Guard From San Jose Admits Smuggling Cell Phones To Inmates

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(CBS)

SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — A former California correctional officer was sentenced to 45 days in jail Friday for smuggling cell phones to state prison inmates.

Terry Lane was fined $5,700, which the Sacramento County district attorney’s office said is the amount of bribes he accepted from inmates for bringing in the phones. He also was placed on three years’ probation.

The four-year veteran was caught Aug. 7 bringing three phones into California State Prison, Sacramento. Prosecutors charged that he had brought in multiple phones over a three-month period.

It’s the kind of activity corrections officials are battling with trained dogs, random searches and new technology to block unauthorized calls.

Lane, 25, of San Jose, pleaded guilty Friday to felony conspiracy to aid a state inmate’s unauthorized communication. A bribery charge was dismissed in a plea deal. The conspiracy charge carried a maximum sentence of three years in state prison.

Possessing a cell phone behind bars violates prison rules but is not illegal. Inmates can lose early release credits, and employees caught smuggling phones can lose their jobs.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Steve Secrest said those who smuggle the phones can face felonies if prosecutors can prove they conspired with inmates, as they did in Lane’s case. He noted in a statement that the phones can be used to plan crimes and escapes.

State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, has introduced two bills this year that add penalties for inmates, employees or visitors smuggling cell phones. Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, is carrying another bill that would require the department to conduct random searches of employees and contractors who enter prisons.

The problem has been growing for several years, despite the prison system’s use of cell phone-sniffing dogs and occasional random searches of employees. Last year, prison officials seized nearly 11,000 unauthorized phones.

Cult killer Charles Manson has been caught with two phones, earlier this year and in 2009. Another inmate was discovered in January with a phone that prison officials suspect had been used to update his Facebook page.

Corrections officials are testing new technology this year that would capture every cell phone signal from a prison, blocking unauthorized calls.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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