California prisons shut down inmates' Facebook pages

Aug 9 2011 - 1:10pm

Facebook "friend" requests from strangers are common, but California corrections officials say they are moving to stop prison inmates' use of the social network.

The state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced Monday that it's working with Facebook security officials to shut down inmate pages that have been set up by prisoners using contraband cellphones or that have been arranged for an inmate's use by someone outside of prison.

"Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity," corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said in a prepared statement. "This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims."

The heightened security comes as prison officials grapple with an explosion in the number of cellphones being found among prison inmates, including one found with mass murderer Charles Manson last year.

Some 261 cellphones were confiscated among inmates in 2006, the department said. That number jumped to more than 7,200 in the first six months of this year.

The department said it has seen evidence of inmates using Facebook pages to issue threats or make sexual advances toward potential or past victims.

Corrections policies allow inmates who had Facebook accounts prior to being sent to prison to keep them. But if evidence is found that the accounts are being used while the inmate is in prison, Facebook security will take the page down, the department said.

Inmate use of the Internet has gone on for years, most frequently with individuals outside prison maintaining sites for inmates seeking "pen pals." But the influx of cellphones smuggled into facilities has given inmates direct access to the Web.

(Contact the Sacramento Bee's Sam Stanton at sstanton@sacbee.com.)

 

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