Inmates check into jail via Facebook

May 31 2013 - 3:51pm


Facebook on computer
Facebook on computer

At a point in history marked by online oversharing, it shouldn't be a surprise that 723 people have checked into Florida's Lee County Jail on Facebook.

Or that the Foursquare "mayor" of Boston Beer Garden also is the "mayor" of the Collier County, Fla., jail.

Or that a mother dropping by the state Department of Juvenile Justice would muse, "What a sad moment, coming to DJJ to come visit your daughter," before publicly tagging herself at the Collier County jail.

And yet.

''Things are changing," said Chief Chris Roberts, who heads up the Naples, Fla., Jail Center. "People are sharing a lot about what they do and where they go."

Take, for instance, a 6-second video clip posted on Vine last month of a teenage girl at Collier County jail visitation.

''Going into jail right now. Again," she tells her cellphone camera, and 276 followers on Twitter. "Why am I always heeeeere? It's Shelby's fault."

Another man uploaded a photo of a piece of notebook paper with advice he said he came up with in solitary confinement in Lee County.

His first pointer? "Give people more than they expect to get."

Interacting with the corrections system on social media could be an extension of prison culture entering the mainstream, said Jeanette Castillo, an assistant professor of digital media and expert on social media at Florida State University.

''There are more people in jail in the U.S. than any other country. Most people probably know someone in jail," she said. "Now, we have lots of reality shows about prison and prison culture."

An April article in The Washington Post explored the phenomenon of lawyers and former inmates reviewing prisons on websites like Yelp. Such sites have been underutilized when it comes to reviewing jails in Southwest Florida, with the exception of a smart-alecky Google review left last year for the Lee County Jail.

''They had overbooked, so I was forced to share my room with two other guests," says an anonymous reviewer, who ranked the jail as poor to fair. "No continental breakfast. Would not recommend."

Sgt. David Velez, who became a spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff's Office after more than a decade of work in the county jail, said certain online postings make light of a situation that is, in fact, serious.

''The jail is the jail," he said. "It's taking away your freedom for something you did on the outside. A lot of people glorify it, and it's sad because it shouldn't be that way."

While most people checking into the local jails on social media seem to be visitors, some posts come from those who work at the jail or from certain inmates eager to share their mug shots with their social network upon their release.

Many posts on Facebook appear to be tongue-in-cheek.

''Going to enjoy this trip. Wish my wife was here," pondered one man who posted from the Collier County jail in March.

''Social media are really places where people go to be playful," Castillo said. "One of the things about Foursquare is it's considered funny to be the mayor of someplace strange like that, like the mayor of the penitentiary."

That's not to say a jail check-in is the fastest path to an LOL. It should be noted that not everyone's friends will be amused.

''Fun fun fun -- at Lee County Jail," a Fort Myers man posted last year.

The first comment?

''Your (sic) an idiot."

(Reach Naples Daily News writer Jessica Lipscomb at Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,


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