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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Law - Cell phones in prison, more

The NY Times had an eye-opening story Jan. 2, 2011, reported by Kim Severson and Robbie Brown, headlined "Outlawed, Cellphones Are Thriving in Prisons." A few quotes from the long story:

ATLANTA — A counterfeiter at a Georgia state prison ticks off the remaining days of his three-year sentence on his Facebook page. He has 91 digital “friends.” Like many of his fellow inmates, he plays the online games FarmVille and Street Wars.

He does it all on a Samsung smartphone, which he says he bought from a guard. And he used the same phone to help organize a short strike among inmates at several Georgia prisons last month.

Technology is changing life inside prisons across the country at the same rapid-fire pace it is changing life outside. A smartphone hidden under a mattress is the modern-day file inside a cake. * * *

Although prison officials have long battled illegal cellphones, smartphones have changed the game. With Internet access, a prisoner can call up phone directories, maps and photographs for criminal purposes, corrections officials and prison security experts say. Gang violence and drug trafficking, they say, are increasingly being orchestrated online, allowing inmates to keep up criminal behavior even as they serve time.

“The smartphone is the most lethal weapon you can get inside a prison,” said Terry L. Bittner, director of security products with the ITT Corporation, one of a handful of companies that create cellphone-detection systems for prisons. “The smartphone is the equivalent of the old Swiss Army knife. You can do a lot of other things with it.”

The Georgia prison strike, for instance, was about things prisoners often complain about: They are not paid for their labor. Visitation rules are too strict. Meals are bad.

But the technology they used to voice their concerns was new.

Inmates punched in text messages and assembled e-mail lists to coordinate simultaneous protests, including work stoppages, with inmates at other prisons. Under pseudonyms, they shared hour-by-hour updates with followers on Facebook and Twitter. They communicated with their advocates, conducted news media interviews and monitored coverage of the strike.

For background, start with this ILB entry from April 28, 2010.

Another cell phone story today, this one by Kate Moser of The Recorder, that begins:

SAN FRANCISCO — Delving into privacy concerns in the age of the smart phone, the California Supreme Court determined today that after police take a cell phone from a suspect during an arrest, they can search the phone's text messages without a warrant.

The majority in the 5-2 decision reasoned that U.S. Supreme Court precedents call for cell phones to be treated as personal property "immediately associated" with the suspect's person.

But in a dissenting opinion, Justice Kathryn Werdegar wrote that information stored on cell phones shouldn't be examined without a warrant and warned that the majority sanctioned searches that violate the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

Here is the 38-page Jan. 3, 2011 opinion of the California Supreme Court in The People v. Diaz.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 4, 2011 09:39 AM
Posted to General Law Related