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Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this morning toughening restrictions on illicit cellphones in prisons, and he ordered prison officials to step up efforts to confiscate smuggled phones.

Senate Bill 26, by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, makes it a misdemeanor to deliver a cellphone to a prison inmate, among other things. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation last year, saying it was too soft on inmates who carry phones and on guards and others who smuggle them.

Brown also issued an executive order instructing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to increase physical searches of people who enter prisons and to develop a system to interrupt unauthorized cellphone calls.

Brown said in his order that prison staff discovered nearly 10,700 contraband cellular devices in 2010, and 7,300 in the first half of this year.

"Prisons exist to remove individuals from our communities who would otherwise do harm to their fellow citizens," Brown said in a prepared statement. "When criminals in prison get possession of a cell phone, it subverts the very purpose of incarceration. They use these phones to organize gang activity, intimidate witnesses and commit crimes. Today's action will help to break up an expanding criminal network and protect law-abiding Californians."


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