State

Facebook crackdown on California inmate profiles

Monday, August 08, 2011

No more "friending" for California's prison inmates. The Department of Corrections is cracking down on prisoners using social networks from their cells, and Facebook is planning to help remove those accounts. Crime victims are applauding the change.

"We're very excited Facebook is starting to remove these pages," said Katie James with the California Department of Corrections.

Countless numbers of California inmates are actively updating their Facebook account from their cells behind bars using smartphones that have been smuggled into prisons. They're posting pictures in front of their bunks and talking about time in the yard. But the activities aren't always mundane -- the state says they're sometimes plotting crimes with each other in code on social media. One child molester even contacted his victim who's now 17.

"We found that he was accessing her Facebook site, her photos, and he was pretty much monitoring her life, and was able to know what she looked like even this many years later," said James.

Facebook is now working with the corrections department and other law enforcement across the country to disable the accounts of inmates who are actively posting while incarcerated, even if it's updated by a family member on the outside.

Prisoners' rights groups say that's not fair because inmates need to stay connected with family or tell media about the conditions inside.

"Social media is one way that prisoners and family members have used in order to communicate with each other," said Isaac Ontiveros with Critical Resistance. "Social media becomes a tool for prisoners to expose what's going on inside the prisons."

Victims' rights groups applaud the move. They say prisoners are still able to use pay phones and write letters and that access to technology means they're up to no good.

Corrections has been trying to get a grip of the proliferation of cell phones in prison -- more than 7,000 have been confiscated in the first six months of this year alone.

"This is like organized crime," said Harriet Salarno with Crime Victims United. "They can get in touch with gangs, they can commit crimes from prison. We need to stop all this."

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