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Inmates would lose good-time credits if caught with cellphones

Maryland Division of Correction considers the items to be contraband

February 23, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Inmates would automatically lose good-time credits if caught with cellphones in prison, under a bill heard Thursday in Annapolis.

The Maryland Division of Correction considers cellphones to be contraband.

Inmates often use cellphones to run drug rings or intimidate witnesses from prison, Sen. Christopher B. Shanksaid, calling them a potential for “great harm to our constituents, as well as correctional officers.”
Shank, R-Washington, presented his bill to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Currently, any prisoner caught with a cellphone can be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to three more years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine, according to a Department of Legislative Services’ analysis of the bill.

Last year, 350 people violated the ban on having cellphones or other communication-related devices, the analysis said.

Shank said seven people were prosecuted under this provision and received an average sentence of about 10.7 months.

Sen.Lisa A. Gladden, D-Baltimore City, wondered about also cracking down on correctional officers caught smuggling cellphones to prisoners.

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Sen. James Brochin, D-Baltimore County, suggested prominently posting signs in prison, warning of the loss of good-time credits for possessing a cellphone.

The state Division of Correction can segregate inmates or restrict outside visits as punishment for having cellphones.

The division also may cut the amount of time shaved from an inmate’s sentence for good behavior. The bill, if passed, would require good-time credits, also known as “dimunition credits,” to be revoked, Shank said.

The Department of Legislative Services analysis said dimunition credits are offered for “good conduct, work tasks, education, and special projects.”

Five days of credit are awarded each month for inmates serving a sentence for a crime involving violence or drug distribution. Other eligible inmates receive 10 days of credit per month.

Inmates serving sentences for certain sex crimes are ineligible.

According to the analysis, by eliminating the time cut from sentences, it would mean more housing costs — roughly $200,000, by one estimate.

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