Can you imagine what life would be like without your cell phone? Do you remember living in a world without having that magic box in your purse or pocket? Can you imagine living without social media?
I know what you’re probably thinking, that sounds like torture. I’ve actually seen videos on YouTube of people documenting a self-imposed week without their phone, and most have a hard time making it through one day. This makes me laugh and shake my head, as I was in prison for four years and got so used to not having a cell phone. Now, I actually still leave it at home often.
Prison inmates aren’t allowed to have cell phones, and their access to computers is extremely limited. It’s a completely different world behind prison walls, and not having constant access to the latest technology can make you feel like you have traveled back in time.
Even though inmates don’t have cell phones and limited access to computers, surely they still are allowed a few minutes every now and then to check social media, right? That leads us to today’s blog post: can you have Facebook in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
Inmates do have limited access to computers, as most facilities have a few in the library or in the classrooms in the education building. Some facilities have also introduced inmate tablets that they can purchase on canteen.
However, none of the computers or tablets that inmates have access to actually have internet access. Not legally, anyway.
As you can imagine, inmates having access to the internet would create all kinds of problems for prisons. So, the answer to today’s blog post is “no,” you can’t have Facebook in prison. Well again, not legally. But, more on that in a minute.
One of the most legendary stories that was talked about in the Missouri women’s prison where I was incarcerated was about a group of inmates who had scammed people out of money. It happened about ten years or so before I was at the facility, but it really happened.
A group of 33 inmates used prison pen pal websites to con men out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the Missouri Attorney General actually sued them and had their accounts frozen.
Of course, they needed help from the outside to get their photos online, but this story serves as the perfect example as to why prison inmates don’t have internet access.
Well, if prison inmates don’t have internet access, how the heck do they get on social media? I often reference the Netflix show Orange is the New Black during my blog posts because that show did have certain storylines that were based on truth.
If you’ve seen it, you might remember inmates getting their hands on cell phones that were smuggled into the facility. And, some of the inmates were posting on social media sites. This is based on reality, as numerous inmates are posting on social media on a daily basis – and sometimes they are doing it from their cell!
Some inmates can access the internet via contraband cell phones that are brought in by officers or by loved ones during a visit, but it’s a huge risk. If you get caught with a cell phone, you could end up in the hole for months, maybe even years. And, if your loved one is caught trying to smuggle in a cell phone during a visit, they could face criminal charges.
For inmates who don’t want to take the risk of having a contraband cell phone, the other way that inmates can get on social media is through a friend or family member on the outside. TRULINCS, which is short for Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System, is the email service for inmates that allows them to send and receive emails in a secure manner.
“My mom forwards my emails and I send her my artwork and she takes pictures and posts them for me. When people comment on my art or just my page, she forwards the messages for me. It helps me let my friends and family see what I am up to and know that I’m doing something productive,” says Alex ‘Boudreaux’ Cook, who is serving ten years for manufacturing marijuana.
It’s very easy to lose contact with your friends and family members when you are in prison. Many inmates get completely forgotten by people on the outside, and they would love to be able to connect with people via social media. Some will even rely on ex-girlfriends and ex-wives to help them set up social media pages, but that can cause its own set of problems.
“In a perfect world, I would have my Facebook page showcase some of my original songs and push my friends to a website I have created just for that,” says inmate Kevin Smith. “ It would be nice to be able to access our own account from here, but we are limited due to the sex offenders wanting to gain access and manipulate to their own sick desires. But I am still happy to have this expensive, slow, and monitored texting service which they refer to as emails.”
Even though TRULINCS is a nice thing to have access to, one email usually costs around the price of a stamp. That means that sending and receiving multiple emails can get expensive really quickly, especially when you consider that most inmates don’t earn more than about $15 a month.
Should inmates have limited access to the internet? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: How prison inmates get on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bn5qmv/how-convicts-get-on-facebook-twitter-and-instagram-in-prison-211 Female Missouri Prisoners Make $291,000 As Sexy Pen Pals, AG Wants His Cut https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2006/oct/15/female-missouri-prisoners-make-291000-as-sexy-pen-pals-ag-wants-his-cut/
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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