Monday, February 14, 2011

Cell Phones & Capital Punishment

One of the major reasons given by Catholics involved in the capital punishment abolition movement is that current prison technology protects the innocent from the aggressor, as the Catechism—note highlighted section—states:

“2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

“Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (highlighting added)

However, as reported by National Public Radio, prison technology is not adequate to protect the innocent from the aggressor, as the proliferation of cell phones in the hands of prisoners increases, enabling them to reach out.

An excerpt.

“By all accounts, California prison inmates are keeping up with technology. Using smart phones, they are texting, surfing the Web and even posting videos to YouTube.

“One inmate even shot and narrated a video on his cell phone camera while guards tried to put down a riot; Sacramento TV station KCRA aired the footage last year.

"I gotta go right now," the prisoner-narrator says on the video before he abruptly signs off.

“Thousands of these phones have been found, hidden under bunks or even in inmates' pockets. The prisons say it's dangerous because convicts can use the phones to stay in touch with other criminals. But California has yet to find a way to stop them.

'A Lucrative Football'

"It's really frightening that they would be able to post video from a phone," says Joe Baumann, a correctional officer at the the California Rehabilitation Center, a state prison in Norco. He says 10 to 15 phones are found each week. They're smuggled in in all sorts of ingenious ways.

"We had a case recently where we had a gentlemen pull up to the fence with a football," he says. With a strong arm, the man easily tossed the football over the electrified fence. There were 27 cell phones and chargers stuffed inside the pigskin. Each phone is worth about $1,000 behind bars.

"That's a pretty lucrative football," Baumann says.

“But it's not just outsiders smuggling the thousands of phones into state prisons every year. State analysts say the primary source of unauthorized phones is the prison staff.

“Last year, one guard claimed he made $150,000 smuggling phones. He was fired but never charged with anything.

“Richard Subia, of California's Department of Corrections, says smuggling cell phones to convicts isn't a crime.”