BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 139
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          Date of Hearing:   July 6, 2011

                                Felipe Fuentes, Chair

                    SB 139 (Alquist) - As Amended:  June 23, 2011 

          Policy Committee:                              Public Safety 
          Vote:        7-0

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          No     Reimbursable:               


          This bill requires the Department of Corrections and 
          Rehabilitation (CDCR) to conduct random periodic contraband 
          searches of all employees and vendors entering the secure 
          perimeter of state prisons. These searches shall be conducted at 
          least once a month at each institution. Any cancelled search 
          must be replaced with a search at another institution, and no 
          institution may go more than three months without a search. In 
          addition, this bill:   

          1)Authorizes the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), or its 
            successor, to oversee at least one CDCR search per year at 
            each prison to ensure the integrity of the process and the 
            accuracy of the reports submitted pursuant to the terms of 
            this bill, and requires CDCR to provide the OIG with at least 
            five working day notice prior to the date of the random 

          2)Requires CDCR to provide a written quarterly report to the 
            Legislature detailing dates of searches, shifts, number of 
            employees and vendors searched, and contraband discovered. The 
            report shall also contain a general comment section for the 
            OIG and CDCR discussing issues relevant to the searches and 
            detailing actions taken as a result of the discovery of 

            FISCAL EFFECT  

          1)Significant annual GF costs, likely in excess of $200,000, to 
            staff the proposed searches. This assumes at least six 
            additional staff per search, for one hour at two gates, at 33 


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            prisons, 12 times per year.  

          2)Annual OIG GF costs would likely be in the range of $50,000 
            per year, assuming eight hours at 33 locations with follow-up 

          3)Annual CDCR reporting costs for detailed quarterly written 
            reports would be about $50,000. 

          4)In addition, there would be unknown, but potentially 
            significant annual GF costs for overtime to the extent random 
            searches backup staff entry into the prison and require staff 
            to stay on post longer than scheduled. For example, if 400 
            staff per prison were delayed by an average of 10 minutes, 12 
            times per year, at 33 prisons, the resulting overtime could 
            cost the state close to $1 million per year. 


           Rationale  . The author's intent is to reduce the proliferation of 
          smuggled cell phones in state prisons. Thousands of phones are 
          being smuggled into state prisons where they sell for as much as 
          $1,000. According to prison officials and law enforcement, 
          inmates can use cell phones to plan escapes, organize riots, or 
          simply communicate with other inmates. Smuggled cell phones 
          empower gangs and help organize criminal networks, many of which 
          are deeply rooted in the prison system.  

           1)Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Report  . In May 2009, the 
            OIG published a report, "Inmate Cell Phone Use Endangers 
            Prison Security and Public Safety." According to the report, 
            "During 2006, correctional officers seized approximately 261 
            cell phones in the state's prisons and camps. However, by 
            2008, that number increased ten-fold to 2,811 with no end in 
            sight. Inmates' access to cell phone technology facilitates 
            their ability to communicate amongst themselves and their 
            associates outside of prison to plan prison assaults, plot 
            prison escapes, and orchestrate a myriad of other illegal 


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            "In addition, these devices can provide an inmate unrestricted 
            and unmonitored access to the Internet, whereby they can 
            communicate with unsuspecting victims, including minors. 
            According to the Department, inmates are paying those involved 
            in smuggling cell phones into California prisons between $500 
            and $1,000 per phone. There are currently no criminal 
            consequences for the introduction or possession of cell phones 
            in prison, making this activity merely an administrative 

            The number of contraband cell phones reached 10,770 in 2010. 
            For 2011, contraband cell phone discoveries are on a pace to 
            exceed 15,000.  

            To eradicate cell phone usage, the OIG recommendations include 
            the following: 

             a)   Continue efforts to seek statutory changes to make the 
               possession of cell phones in correctional facilities a 
               criminal offense.

             b)   Collaborate with state and federal agencies to lobby the 
               Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for an exemption in 
               using cell phone jamming devices.

             c)   Request resources to conduct airport-style screening 
               including metal and canine detection, and manual searches 
               of persons entering California prison facilities

             d)   Restrict the size of carrying cases brought into secure 

             e)   Require vendor packages be shipped directly to prisons 
               and correctional camps. 

           2)Operation Disconnect.  According to the author's office, this 
            bill is designed to essentially standardize and codify the 


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            random searches conducted by CDCR's office of internal 
            affairs, known as Operation Disconnect. According to CDCR 
            documents, beginning in November 2009, each institution is 
            charged with conducting "at least one random search monthly." 
            A sample of the search results through June 2010 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.   

           3)Related Legislation.

              a)   SB 1066 (Oropeza), 2010, was almost identical to this 
               bill and was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger,  who stated, 
               "This measure is unnecessary as California law already 
               authorizes CDCR to search staff and vendors and provides 
               the necessary flexibility needed to conduct its operations 
               within existing budget constraints. SB 1066 removes this 
               flexibility and instead codifies a cumbersome, bureaucratic 
               process that will impede the Department's current and 
               future efforts." 

             b)   SB 26 (Padilla), 2011, makes it a misdemeanor for 
               unauthorized persons to possess a wireless communication 
               device with the intent to deliver the device to an inmate, 
               and makes possession of such a device by an inmate 
               punishable by the loss of six months sentence credit.  SB 
               26 is pending in Assembly Public Safety.

             a)   SB 525 (Padilla), 2010, created a misdemeanor for 
               possession of a cell phone or wireless communication device 
               with the intent to deliver that device to an inmate or 
               ward. SB 525 was vetoed. Gov. Schwarzenegger stated the 
               measure did not go far enough.  

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081 


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