Being in prison is no walk in the park, however some enterprising inmates have found a way to setup and update their Facebook pages while serving hard time. But some lawmakers are ready to put the kibosh on their ability to tap into social networks.
South Carolina legislators are currently pondering whether or not to make it illegal for inmates to update their Facebook statuses via cell phone.
Despite cell phones, computers, and other web-enable devices being prohibited in prisons, some inmates have found a way to stay in touch with the outside world using cell phones that have been smuggled into correctional facilities.
According to The Associated Press, officials in California have confiscated nearly 11,000 cell phones from prisoners last year and are working on setting up a system that would capture illegal cell phone signals inside the prison. This system is already in place in Mississippi and officials in South Carolina are planning to implement a similar system.
The proposed law in South Carolina would prohibit inmates from updating social networking sites and would add 30 days to the inmate’s sentence and impose a $500 fine if he or she were caught. Lawmakers say the law not only punishes inmates, but also protects their victims as well.
“We now know that the criminals behind bars are using this as a method of intimidation. People’s lives are threatened. They’re sending out coded messages through social networking,” Rep. Wendell Gilliard said. “How can we as a society stand by and do nothing?”
The American Civil Liverties Union (ACLU) disagrees. They oppose the proposed South Carolina law and fought a similar measure in Arizona in 2003. Although ACLU officials agree that inmates shouldn’t be allowed unrestricted access to cell phones, they argue a proposed ban on posting to social networking sites would infringe on an inmate’s first amendment rights.
“Efforts of this kind are just an attempt to beat up on prisoners because we don’t like them,” said David Fathi, director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project. “The First Amendment protects speech, even if it’s speech that some people don’t want to see. The response to seeing something that you don’t like on the Internet is, don’t look at it.”
“There is no First Amendment objection to prison officials saying prisoners can’t have cell phones, and doing the appropriate searches to make sure that rule is followed, but that’s completely different than something like this bill that tries to regulate prisoners’ speech in the outside world.”
What do you think? Should inmates (or their families) be allowed to set up a Facebook account and update it while in prison? Sound Off!