California prisons taking steps to disable cell phones

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Last updated April 12, 2019

Inmates in prison are not allowed to possess certain kinds of items. While most people are aware that prisoners may not of course keep anything resembling a weapon, some Americans would be surprised to learn that cell phones are also a no-no in the nation’s prisons. The reasoning behind this prohibition is quite simple and reasonable: when inmates have unrestricted access to phone calls, some of them use such calls to arrange for illegal activities such as witness tampering and intimidation. An even more egregious use of them is to run drug operations from behind bars.

Inmates try to get around the restriction on cell phones by having one smuggled into them by a visitor; in some high-profile cases guards have even been bribed to provide prisoner’s with cell phones. Now, it seems that the California prison system is fed up with dealing with the flow of prohibited cell phones into the state’s prisons. The private firm that currently owns the rights to provide pay phones inside the state’s prisons has agreed to install cell phone blocking technology.

This decision will have both a public and a private benefit. Public safety will not be endangered any longer by criminals freely using phones to conduct illegal activities; prisoners will have to go back to using pay phones, which are typically monitored by prison staff. At the same time, the private company will once more be making money from the pay phones.

This move is a welcome step forward to making sure that cell phones in our society are used but not abused.