Social Media Saturday - Facebook Me (Behind Bars)

Saturday, 26 March 2011
There is a bill introduced to the state in South Carolina by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat from Charleston about Facebook. He says inmates that log onto Facebook and create a page using a smuggled-in smart phone should face penalties. The proposal says inmates should face an additional 30 days behind bars and a $500 fine for using social media sites. The bill even lists penalties for family members or friends that help an inmate create a Facebook page. Why is this a big deal?
Apparently South Carolina victims of assault, violet crimes, robberies and harassment have been getting threatening messages on Facebook from inmates! Can you imagine?

Convicted murderer, Justin Walker was caught uploading pictures to Facebook of himself licking a large knife in his cell and smoking marijuana. These photos are clearly meant to intimidate and show Walker in a "tough guy" role. To me, and to prison officials apparently, the photos are disturbing.

Picture taken by Walker using his Blackberry, posted to Facebook

The use of cell phones in prison is already illegal and the ACLU has already raised a red flag regarding the bill. The argument pertains to the prohibition of Freedom of Speech. Members point out the bill isn't legal because it infringes on the First Amendment and prison guards should spend more time monitoring contraband behind bars.

Who is right in this debate? I'm willing to listen to both sides of this argument and my regular readers know how passionate I am about Freedom of Speech. However, convicted criminals already forfeit some rights while serving time for crimes. Should a criminal have the right to use Facebook behind bars when the right to vote is taken away? I don't think so.

Facebook is fun. It is entertainment. It's a way for us to stay in touch with friends and family. Some inmates can interact with their loved ones through vistation rights and that should be it. They can also write letters and communicate through phone calls. Facebook is a perk. Killers make life inconvenient for victims' families (Justin Walker killed Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell). They use violence to solve problems and rather than experience the rewards of social media, they should lose privaledges that an advanced society enjoys.

What do you think?


Chris F. said...

Overall the justice system (and I use that term loosely) is in serious need of reform. Millions of people are fine, jailed, or what not for nothing more than picking their nose or having hair that is too long.

That being said, generally if convicted and serving time, beyond ensuring that prisoners are treated humanely, I don't view having access to social media or fine wine as being a right per se. If prison is too easy, what's the incentive for shaping up?

LizP said...

First, they let prisoners have Blackberries???

It is my understanding that if one is convicted of a felony that they lose some of their rights. They can't vote. Wouldn't that same logic apply to this situation, at least for a convicted felon? It is such a slippery slope ... at what point does we have to infringe on the rights of one to protect another (or many)? It is a situation without easy answers.

Can you get a restraining order for social media?

Denae said...

LizP - Excellent question about restraining orders! Might have to be a future Social Media Saturday.