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article imageCharles Manson caught with cellphone in prison

By Kim I. Hartman     Dec 4, 2010 in Crime
Los Angeles - Cellphone use in California prisons continues to rise with thousands of them found yearly in the hands of some of the most notorious criminals. Officials say it's not illegal for state prisoners to possess the devices.
In September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have imposed a $5,000 fine on anyone caught giving a phone to a prisoner.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger complained that the bill did not make it a serious crime for a prisoner to possess a phone and did not include the threat of jail time for the smuggler, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Signing this measure would mean that smuggling a can of beer into a prison carries with it a greater punishment than delivering a cellphone to the leader of a criminal street gang," Schwarzenegger wrote.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D- Pacoima), who sponsored the bill, SB 525, said he was caught between a governor who wants to put smugglers in prison and a Senate Public Safety Committee policy against adding new felonies to the state penal code for fear of exacerbating California's prison overcrowding.
"The fact that Charles Manson had a cellphone in prison is just further proof that the situation is out of control," a frustrated Padilla said last week. "I'm not giving up. Until we have a law on the books with real consequences, this will continue to be a danger."
For now, the only recourse prison officials have when they find an inmate with a phone is to charge him or her with a violation of department policy.
"It's troubling that he had a cellphone since he's a person who got other people to murder on his behalf," said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections. She added that it is not known if the one-time cult leader used the phone to order up any crimes, reported NBC LA.
Manson reportedly made calls and sent texts to California, New Jersey, Florida and British Columbia before guards found the contraband phone.
The identities of any of the people Manson contacted were withheld by prison officials.
Manson, 76, is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison for the 1969 "Helter Skelter" murders of actress Sharon Tate and six other people.
Prison officials are unsure where Manson got the phone that was found under his mattress.
After completing the investigation into the matter, their only recourse was to add thirty days to his sentence.
"He was also counseled and reprimanded, too," Thornton said.
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