S.C. Prisoner Challenges Bill Preventing Inmates’ Use of Facebook, Other Social Networks

Should prisoners be able to access Facebook and other social networks? South Carolina became the latest venue for this debate, as an inmate in the state created an online petition seeking to block a bill sponsored by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D- Charleston) that would prohibit inmates from having social media accounts or assisting other inmates in obtaining them, Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier reported.

CellPhoneInChains650Should prisoners be able to access Facebook and other social networks? South Carolina became the latest venue for this debate, as an inmate in the state created an online petition seeking to block a bill sponsored by state Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D- Charleston) that would prohibit inmates from having social media accounts or assisting other inmates in obtaining them, Charleston newspaper The Post and Courier reported.

According to The Post and Courier, Frenchis Abraham, who is serving a 30-year term for manslaughter at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, is behind the petition, citing as one of its goals to “support prisoners that want to stay connected to family, garner support and be proactive about their re-entry.” He wrote in the petition:

Rep. Gilliard bases the measure on the risk that prisoners may use social networking sites to harass and threaten crime victims and coordinate criminal activity. This is not a valid response. It would effectively negate the hundreds of prisoners who want to establish a true re-entry plan or proceed on a path of rehabilitation. Should there be an issue with a particular social networking site, or how it is being used by or on behalf of a prisoner, the prisons have the ability to issue incident reports for misuse and can request that the page be deactivated for abuse. Furthermore, Facebook and other similar social networking sites have effective methods in place that allow their users to report abuse and misuse of their services. To prohibit the creation and updating of all websites and social networking sites by or on behalf of any and all prisoners based on possible abuse is not a sound defendable position and violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Post and Courier reported that Abraham has been disciplined twice for possessing or attempting to acquire cellular phones, as their use is banned in South Carolina prisons, along with the use of social networks.

South Carolina passed a law in 2012 making it a misdemeanor for inmates to use social media sites to harass, intimidate or contact crime victims, The Post and Courier reported, but Gilliard continues to push his bill, telling the newspaper:

I’d rather he (Abraham) spend his time petitioning for ways to keep people from coming to prison in the first place.

They shouldn’t be in there thinking of new ways to challenge the system. They are put in prison to put their talents to use working in the right direction to become productive citizens when they return to society.

Readers: Do you think prisoners should be able to access Facebook and other social networks?

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