California is attempting to draft new legislation to crack down on the widespread proliferation of old cell phones being smuggled into correctional facilities such as the California Institution for Women and the California Institution for Men. The bill, which was mooted by State Senator Alex Padilla last week, was approved by the Senate with 39 votes to zero and is now headed for the state Assembly where it will be considered by the Public Safety Committee. Should the bill become law, it will mean anyone caught smuggling a cell phone into a correctional facility could be charged with a misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail, plus a fine of up to 5,000 US dollars for every cell phone smuggled. Likewise, any inmates who are found to be in possession of a used cell phone will face an irreversible loss of time credits.
Some Republicans, however, believe that the bill does not go far enough, and that the charge if caught attempting to smuggle cell phones into a correctional facility should be a felony rather than just a misdemeanor. “It’s very difficult to get liberal legislators to pass anything with a felony out of committee anymore,” says Assemblyman Curt Hagman. “With a misdemeanor, all its going to do is let people with six month sentences out after a day or two because of overcrowding. I wish this was stronger.”