Facebook is quickly becoming one of the best ways to pass time during incarceration. In the past two years alone, over 350 people have been caught using Facebook from their cells. Depending on what county and state you are in, it is a crime to possess a cell phone while serving time, but despite that law, popularity is increasing.
In 2009 California corrections officers confiscated over 9000 cell phones from prisoners. How are these phones getting into the prison system? They are being smuggled in by family and friends who come to visit, they are being sold to prisoners by guards, and in some cases, they are tossed over fences or fired in via potato cannons.
One inmate from a Georgia prison claims, “Almost everybody has a phone. Almost every phone is a smartphone. Almost everybody with a smartphone has a Facebook”.
Some prisons are working with technology providers to develop solutions that could block reception from the confinement areas. In direct opposition to those efforts are developers who create technology to override the measures. Hal Goldstein, the publisher of iPhone Life magazine says, “It’s a pure business opportunity...People outside of prison become addicted to their phones, imagine if you had nothing but time on your hands?”
David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at The American Civil Liberties Union has different ideas about inmates using cell phones. He believes that staying connected to reality via smartphones and other communication devices helps prisoners more easily assimilate back into society after long periods of incarceration.
Fathi explains,“It shows that even if they are closed institutions, prisons are still part of the larger society....they can’t be forever walled off from technological changes".
While some believe it may be a good idea to let prisoners stay connected to society via smartphones and social networking sites like Facebook, there is also reason to argue against it.
Jean Taylor of Families fighting for Justice claims, "These perpetrators should not be able to have access to mobile phones in prison, they are getting away with torturing their victims. The social networking sites should police this much more closely!"
Javed Khan, a Victim Support representative adds, "Offenders using Facebook from prison makes a mockery of the idea that they are being punished."
Colin Gunn, one of Britain's most infamous gangsters was caught using Facebook to threaten his enemies from prison. In one posting he wrote:
"I will be home one day and I can't wait to look into certain people's eyes and see the fear of me being there".
"It's good to have an outlet to let you know how I am, some of you will be in for a good slagging and some have let me down badly and will be named and shamed ***ing rats."
In another case, a young man who killed a shopkeeper during a robbery posted a series of pictures featuring gang signs, apparently celebrating his crime on Facebook.
A representative of Facebook comments on their stance:
"If something is happening which violates our use policy we will be very active and robust in removing it."