A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Turner v. Safley

Help! I’ve Been Facebook Poked by a Prisoner!

By Russell Smith

Ever been Facebook poked by a prisoner?

Well, you could be. Some inmates have been maintaining accounts on social networking websites like Facebook by using smart phones that have been smuggled into prisons. Now prison officials are worried that inmates may use these accounts to harass victims, threaten people, or conspire to commit crimes.

According to the Associated Press, prisoners’ social networking accounts have caught the attention of lawmakers in South Carolina, who earlier this year introduced a bill which would make it a crime for a South Carolina inmate “to be a member of any Internet-based social networking website.” The new law would add up to 30 days to a prisoner’s sentence or impose up to a $500 fine if the prisoner was caught with a social networking account. Additionally, the law would impose the same punishments on any person who sets up an account for a South Carolina inmate.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU objects to the bill, and believes that a law prohibiting inmates from having social networking accounts stifles free speech in violation of the First Amendment.

While the Associated Press reported this story in great detail, it did not explain whether the South Carolina bill could survive constitutional scrutiny. LASIS looked into the matter and “like” it or not, banning inmates from Facebook violates their First Amendment rights. (more…)

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