Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

May 6, 2013

Time to stop it

Cellphone use still major problem in Md. lockups

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the infestation of gang members in the Baltimore City Detention Center, not the least should be that the state has failed miserably in cracking down on cellphone smuggling by inmates.

The Black Guerilla Family gang apparently was operating unchecked in the city jail and cellphones were the main tool in use. According to the indictment, the Black Guerilla Family gang essentially took over the institution. Guards smuggled in cellphones and drugs and had sex with gang members.

While legislation to strengthen the state’s cellphone laws probably would not have single-handedly stopped the problem, it may have been a big part of the solution.

Since 2010, legislation to make cellphone possession by inmates a felony offense has been bottled up in the House Ways and Means Committee, according to the Washington Post. Gary Maynard, the state’s corrections secretary, first requested the new law four years ago, but the committee has failed to budge every legislative session since.

The Post pointed out that under the legislation, inmates caught with a cellphone for a second time would have faced felony charges that could result in up to five additional years being tacked onto their sentences. Under current law, cellphone possession is a misdemeanor, regardless of how many times inmates are caught, and the punishment does not automatically lengthen their incarceration. The legislation also would have increased penalties for guards, visitors or anyone else who delivers or attempts to deliver a cellphone to an inmate.

Cellphone use in prisons is not unique to Maryland. States throughout the nation are trying a variety of ways to stop the use of phones — and most of them are implementing tougher criminal penalties. The Post reports that  Mississippi is cracking down this year using a contraband law that carries felony sentences of up to 15 years in prison. And Idaho passed a law last year that makes the crime a felony with a potential five-year sentence.

Maynard and a host of other  law enforcement officials — including Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, the Maryland Sheriffs Association and the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention — strongly support a tougher law against the phones. It’s long past time for the Ways and Means Committee to drop its obstructionist antics.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • What do we do about those who weren’t criminals after all?

    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • The first step The first step

    If all goes as planned, Frostburg State University will one day offer a doctorate in nursing, a physician’s assistant program and a new health sciences building on campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

  • Closing the loopholes will help clear the regulatory waters

    After a decade of uncertainty over Clean Water Act jurisdiction following Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced a forthcoming administrative rule to close enforcement loopholes, restoring protections to 20 million acres of wetlands, more than half the nation’s streams, and drinking water for 117 million Americans.

    April 15, 2014

  • The first step Remember where your freedom comes from before criticizing

    The deal at Fort Hood could have been avoided if it was caught in time.
    When you think a GI is not acting right, have him or her checked out before you put them back on duty and give them a weapon. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious and dangerous problem if it is not taken care of right away.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Where to look Where to look

    Drive anywhere in Maryland and it seems there is one highway construction project after another. While it is good to see our roads and bridges being upgraded, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone traveling a long distance.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Midterm elections give chance to return to American values

    A movement has been started by veterans of our armed forces to get out the vote in 2014. That includes Coast Guard and Merchant Marine personnel for those not familiar with the history of both and their sacrifice. This is no small special interest  group, but many millions of Americans who can have an enormous impact on the  outcome of the November election if they all respond.

    April 14, 2014