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CELL_PHONE_CREDIT_1.JPGDemocratic Sen. Alex Padilla today verbally slapped Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for vetoing his legislation to make furnishing a cell phone to a state prison inmate a misdemeanor crime.

The Los Angeles lawmaker, in a written statement, characterized Schwarzenegger's veto of Senate Bill 525 as irresponsible and says it "gives the green light to smugglers."

"Under the governor's 'do nothing' policy, more and more violent inmates will gain access to cell-phones and use them to conduct criminal acts in our communities," Padilla said. "This will be part of his legacy."

SB 525 would have hit smugglers with a fine of up to $5,000 for each cell-phone or other wireless communication device that they provided to inmates.

State law currently provides no criminal consequences for bringing a cell-phone or other hand-held communications device into a prison, which can tempt staff, visitors, contracted employees and others to attempt to smuggle such devices to inmates.

Prisoners can use wireless technology to plot escapes, plan crimes and gain unrestricted access to the Internets, where they can communicate with unsuspecting victims, according to state officials.

The number of cell-phones recovered in state prisons has soared in recent years -- from 261 in 2006 to 6,995 last year, Padilla said.

Inmates are willing to pay $500 to $1,000 per cell phone, according to prison officials.

Schwarzenegger, in vetoing SB 525, called it an inexcusably weak solution to the problem.

"While signing this measure might be better than nothing, I cannot sign a measure that does so little," Schwarzenegger's veto message said.

"Signing (it) would mean that smuggling a can of beer into a prison carries with it a greater punishment than delivering a cell phone to the leader of a criminal street gang," he said.

Schwarzenegger noted that his administration sponsored a bill last year to make possessing such devices in prison a felony, but the Legislature killed it.

The Republican governor, who is termed out this year, urged lawmakers to pass a measure that threatens jail time for smugglers and punishes inmates caught with such devices.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Wilson/The New York Times


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