The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 30, 2011
Avenal correctional staff intercept cellphones, tobacco

110830 prison cellphones.JPGStaff at Avenal State Prison last week found cellphones, cellphone batteries and chargers and tobacco after a sergeant noticed a security fence breach on the south of the facility.

The discovery on Friday came one day after a key legislative committee approved Senate Bill 26, which would criminalize smuggling wireless devices into prison facilities.

According to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the discovery netted two bags filled with:

• 173 bundles of tobacco weighing approximately 17 pounds
• 25 cellular phones
• 26 cell phone chargers
• 11 cell phone batteries
• 5 cigarette lighters
• 1 pair of cell phone ear-buds
• 3 Micro SD memory cards

SB 26, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, would make smuggling cellphones or other wireless devices punishable by six months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 per device. Inmates caught with a device would permanently lose up to 90 days of sentence credits.

The measure also includes language that protects anyone from prosecution who accidentally brings a cellphone into a prison, protects cellphone data from unwarranted inspection by the state and requires that the new inmate phone system contract may not increase the cost of inmate calls.

A committee analysis of the bill notes:

A sample of search results through June 2011 shows 673 searches, resulting in the following contraband: 471 cell phones; 450 flash drives; 125 DVDs; 697 CDs; 110 iPods; 302 lighters or matches; 4,678 miscellaneous contraband objects.

These 673 searches also resulted in 1,156 disciplinary letters of instruction pending review by the warden, and 337 disciplinary referrals to internal affairs.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the measure 17-0 on Thursday, setting the stage for a vote by the full chamber.

PHOTO: Contraband discovered last week by prison staff at Avenal State Prison. / courtesy California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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