CDCR Employees Investigated, Lose Jobs for Cell Phone Smuggling
Some did it for money. Others for love, or something like it. Whatever their motives, at least 21 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employees faced internal investigations in the first six months of 2014 for allegedly smuggling cell phones to prisoners, according to a recent report. Eleven were fired and most of the others referred for criminal prosecutions.
CDCR’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reported in October 2014 that among 348 cases of serious policy violations closed between January 1 and June 30, 2014, 21 state prison employees – some guards, some administrative or medical staff – were accused of smuggling contraband cell phones. The other cases involved use of force, sexual misconduct, abuse of position or authority and other violations.
Before October 2011, cell phone smuggling was a firing offense but not illegal. That changed when Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 26, a bill supported by CDCR administrators – who argued that prisoners run gangs, intimidate witnesses and order hits using cell phones – which makes smuggling or possession of a cell phone in a state prison a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail plus a $5,000 fine. Prisoners face up to 90 days loss of good time credits. [See: PLN, Jan. 2012, p.38].
The OIG report provided details about the closed investigations involving cell phone smuggling by staff members, which had occurred between 2011 and 2014; cell phones were found in around 15% of contraband cases, compared with weapons (about 30%) and drugs (almost 60%).
One of the cases cited in the OIG report involved an October 19, 2013 incident in which a guard “allegedly was in possession of numerous contraband items inside the secure perimeter, including reading materials, razor blades, a mirror, a bottle of cologne, a small knife, scissors, ear buds, mobile phone chargers, a fake cigarette, and two fake mobile phones.... The officer was allegedly dishonest when he said that he had these contraband items to lure inmates who might solicit the trafficking of contraband.”
In another case, “an officer allegedly engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate. The officer was also allegedly overly familiar with that inmate’s family when the officer sent a picture of the inmate to the inmate’s family via the officer’s personal mobile phone. On November 19, 2013, the officer also allegedly brought contraband into the institution, including a mobile phone, tobacco, and electrical devices.”
On December 17, 2013, a superior court ordered former CSP Lancaster guard Andre Scott to stand trial for smuggling drugs and cell phones to incarcerated gang members. Scott, 42, was charged with bringing drugs into prison, possession of marijuana for sale, possession for sale of a controlled substance, sale or transportation of marijuana and sale or transportation of a controlled substance. When confronted by investigators at the facility, Scott had packages of marijuana and heroin, as well as cell phones; some of the packages were labeled with prisoners’ nicknames. He had worked at the CDCR for at least ten years.
Prison officials reported that 12,151 contraband cell phones were found in CDCR prisons and conservation camps in 2013. The number of confiscated phones is expected to decrease with the installation of “managed access” cell phone blocking systems – which would make communication possible only from approved phones – at all CDCR facilities by 2015. [See: PLN, Oct. 2013, p.40].
It’s doubtful that cell phone smuggling will be completely eradicated throughout California’s prisons, according to CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas, because there are “always some bad apples.”
One of those bad apples, a youth counselor, allegedly had a sexual relationship with a juvenile offender and gave the offender a cell phone on February 26, 2014. The counselor subsequently resigned pending an investigation, according to the OIG.
Source: Semi-Annual Report, California Office of the Inspector General, January-June 2014 (released October 2014); www.cdcr.ca.gov; www.theavtimes.com
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