Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ban on surrogate social media for inmates a bad idea on many levels

Leave it to TDCJ to do exactly the wrong thing on inmate social media accounts. The Texas Tribune reported today that:
Texas prison inmates shouldn't be allowed to have active social media accounts, even if friends or family on the outside actually run them, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has decided.
Earlier this month, the department updated its criminal handbook to prohibit prisoners from having personal pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram run in their name by others. When pages violating the policy are discovered, the department plans to report the violations to the appropriate social network.

"What really prompted the rule was that social media companies now require some sort of specific rule in place that's going to prohibit offenders from maintaining their social media accounts," said department spokesman Jason Clark. "I can tell you increasingly it has become more difficult to ask those companies to take it down. They would come back to us and say, 'You don't have a specific policy that says they can't have it.'"

But the new rule is eliciting free-speech concerns from civil liberties groups and raising questions about how friends or family can advocate for inmates.
Besides the fact that the new policy will almost certainly prove impossible to enforce, and that it was enacted without legislative authorization or even soliciting stakeholder input, this decision was wrongheaded on multiple levels.

Invites First Amendment kerfuffle
First, it invites litigation. It almost feels like they're trying to pick a legal fight. TDCJ just had to change their policy banning beards for Muslim prisoners because of a recent Supreme Court ruling, so we know SCOTUS thinks inmates don't comprehensively lose their First Amendment rights. And in this case, the rights involved aren't limited to the inmate.

Wayne Krause Yang, an attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project, suggested "the prison system's reach exceeds its legal grasp" with this rule, reported the Trib. "Typically, prisons control the things inside the prisons. they don't traditionally get to pass prison policies that extend far beyond the bars, and it seems like that's what they're trying to do here," he said. "Those types of policies have a name – they're called laws. They should be considered by the representatives of the people, too, because this policy doesn't just affect the people behind the bars."

IANAL, much less a First Amendment expert. But it's not hard to imagine that maintaining a website in the name of another person, with their permission, is protected speech. In February a district judge ruled Texas' online impersonation statute - outlawing the use of another person's name without their permission - is unconstitutional. How much more protected might the courts consider these consensual arrangements?

Incarceration affects more people than just the person incarcerated and those other folks have free speech rights. TDCJ can't by rule take those away. And it raises serious constitutional concerns to threaten to punish an inmate if someone in the free world exercises their right to free speech by posting excerpts from inmate communications on social media.

Grits expects this to be litigated nearly instantly. I have no inside knowledge, but there are too many examples of inmates' social media sites being maintained by friends or loved ones for this not to be quickly and aggressively challenged, if I had to guess.

Misses reintegration opportunity: Should encourage inmates to connect to family, friends
Beyond civil libertarian concerns, though, TDCJ's ham-handed policy misses an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into the community.

One often hears the estimate that Texas prisons incarcerate around 150,000 inmates, give or take, but that number is not static. Texas releases more than 70,000 prisoners per year, with local law enforcement sending them a roughly like amount to fill the beds they're emptying. That enormous number remained steady over the prior decade, even as crime dramatically declined, for reasons this blog has frequently discussed..

Most offenders aren't in prison that long and when they get out, having retained connections to friends and family facilitates rehabilitation. Average time served for people leaving TDCJ in 2014 was 2.8 years (0.8 years for those in state jails; 4.2 years for those in regular prison units). And they have to keep releasing that many because, despite the crime decline, county prosecutors keep convicting as many or more people of felony offenses than ever, boosting the ratio of convictions-per-arrest in ways that John Pfaff has shown are part of a national trend.

So the typical offender headed to TDCJ will get out four years hence. If they return having no connection to the folks most likely to help them succeed (TDCJ only gives them $100 and a bus ticket when they get out), how is that helping anybody?

These days, people stay connected to one another over distance through the internet, to which Texas inmates don't have access. To me, the solution here is simple and the opposite of what TDCJ has suggested: Allow inmates limited, regulated internet access and the ability to maintain social media accounts. Establish rules making them private except for approved contacts and monitor (by algorithm and, upon suspicion, by staff) and regulate the content of interactions. Give TDCJ back-end access, a kill switch if inmates don't follow the rules, and give inmates an appeals process if TDCJ abuses its authority.

Recently, following up on last year's coverage on Vice and our pal Maurice Chammah's good work for the Marshall Project, CBS' 60 Minutes had a feature on German prisons. The recurring mantra in that piece was that the overarching goal of Deutchland prisons - beyond retribution or incapacitation - was "being reintegrated into a normal life" as a rehabilitated individual. Here's an exchange between the 60 Minutes correspondent and a German prison official:
Joerg Jesse: The real goal is reintegration into society, train them to find a different way to handle their situation outside, life without further crimes, life without creating new victims, things like that.
Bill Whitaker: Where does punishment come in?

Joerg Jesse: The incarceration, the imprisonment itself is punishment. The loss of freedom, that's it.
Bill Whitaker: I think Americans think crime and punishment. You say punishment is not even part of the goal of the German prison.

Joerg Jesse: No.

Bill Whitaker: At all?

Joerg Jesse: Not at all.
Now, I'm not going to suggest for a moment Texas should model its prisons on Germany. We're about as far away from that as Grits is from a hiking route to Berlin. But would it kill us to pay homage to that "reintegration" goal where it can be done in a reasonable, secure fashion? And must prisons be the ONLY institution in society utterly unaffected by the advent of 21st century technology? Are Texans really so unimaginative that the only thing officials can think to do with the new social media phenomenon is close their eyes and wish it would go away?

We're missing an opportunity here to allow inmates to maintain greater connections to the outside world, connections they're going to need to succeed when they get out. Without them, there's a greater likelihood that, alienated and isolated, they fall back into a life of criminality after their incarceration ends.

19th century thinking bad for 21st century security
Let's be frank. Despite Sen. John Whitmire declaring a "zero tolerance" policy on contraband cell phones in Texas prisons, they're still smuggled in fairly routinely and inmates find ways to rent them if they want them. So right now inmates with sufficient resources can get online, create an account, and say or do whatever they want. Happens all the time.

If motivated inmates can access social media, anyway, then Lyndon Johnson's famous quote about J. Edgar Hoover comes to mind: "It's probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in." Having been unsuccessful at banning internet access, why not allow it, regulate it, and use it for public-spirited goals instead of relegating it to the black market?

Wouldn't it be a better approach if prison units all had a computer lab where inmates could a) learn skills with which they might support themselves in modern service economy and which b) allowed inmates to have email and social media accounts through which the agency could monitor and regulate their content and connections? If TDCJ allowed inmates email and basic social media access - say a Facebook account - and imposed similar content rules to what it does on outgoing mail, most offenders would just use that service and the market for contraband phones might just dry up. Federal prisons allow inmates limited email access, which is a start. but social media is how a lot of people stay connected, particularly among families.

Heck, one could see cell phones with limited access - the way parents can control contents for kids - that inmates could check out or keep in their cell. Keystroke logging could keep track of how it's used. And restricting access would become a probably-very-effective behavior management tool. (Long-time readers may recall Grits has been calling for some version of this change since at least 2011.)

If phones or computers are being used for criminality, harassing victims, etc., this way you know about them and can easily secure evidence. If they're plotting crimes or harassing victims on a contraband phone, what can you really do? Anyway, TDCJ can't know comprehensively who has a social media presence out in the world, especially if they use pseudonyms. So it's hard to stop that behavior on a contraband phone unless someone informs on them. If inmates are communicating using the agency's tech, by contrast, those sorts of things are a lot easier to monitor.

* * *

Bottom line, TDCJ treats inmate connectivity as something to fear and banish, but in cyberspace as with visits, letters, and phone calls, contact with the outside world is something prisons must manage. Positive communications that support goals of reintegration and maintenance of healthy relationships should be encouraged while negative interactions must be identified and stopped. TDCJ may have justified its new social media policy based on security. But by promoting greater demand for contraband and eschewing avenues for monitoring and regulating social media access, not to mention trampling on the free speech rights of free-world folk in probably-unconstitutional ways, in the medium to long run my guess is that this decision caused more problems than it solved.

MORE: From Maurice Chammah at the Marshall Project.

48 comments:

He's Innocent said...

Holy batman! What a concept! Keep community ties while they are still in prison. SMH. TDCJ, this is not rocket science. TDCJ hobbles people so effectively that it is a literal struggle to help your incarcerated loved ones stay in touch with those who might actually maintain their connection to the incarcerated person. (So many "friends" fade away after convictions)

Anywho - obviously all of Grits ideas are sound and sane. What is also obvious, to me, is that when they ARE forced to actions akin to Grit's suggestions, they will simply turn it into another cash cow. Why not? Everything else within the system is privatized and monetized.

Have I mentioned I want the hell out of this state and its assbackwards thinking? We're bound to remain for the next 8 years at least though, courtesy of the Tx legal system.

sunray's wench said...

I would love to know what scares TDCJ so much that they feel the need to even try and dictate what I can or can't do with my own internet access even if I choose to put my husband's name on a webpage. Could it possibly be that TDCJ cannot make money off this activity, like they do with the JPay email functionality and the eComm service (which has some of the worst service I've ever known when it comes to delivering what I order). They see everything through the inmate lense and ignore the fact that not everything is actualy designed for the inmates, some things are designed for the friends and family instead.

CS McClellan/Catana said...

Unfortunately, this rule is going to be very easy to enforce. I'm personally involved with a prisoner on Texas death row, and with a blog for prisoners' writing. The blog, Minutes Before Six, has already taken down all writing by Texas prisoners for fear of the prisoners being punished. The blog has been under the eye of TDCJ for a long time, and officers have more than once attempted to prevent prisoners from writing for it.

The blog isn't in the name of any prisoner. In fact it publishes essays, poetry, and art from prisoners all over the country. But the admins have no illusions and are sure that TDCJ will make the Texas contributors suffer for their participation.

Ray Hill said...

When The Prison Show began broadcasting telephone calls from home in the early 1980's The Board of Corrections (as it was called then) distributed notice that any inmate whose name was heard on the show would face disciplinary action and those who called in would not be allowed to visit or communicate with the inmate named. That rule never took effect because Houston' ACLU lawyer, Patrick Wiseman called TDC General Counsel and they had a conversation about the wisdom of the policy stopping it before it got started If anyone with a bar card wants to do that now, give us a report on how it went.

Memorable Moment said...

Are PenPal sites and FB pages going to be considered in this as well? If someone has my Loved One listed to receive mail, will he get a case?

What about other TDCJ related groups like TDCJ Inmate Birthdays where we send cards to each other's Loved One. Should we be worried for those we send cards to?

What about discussing our Loved Ones, the mere mention of their name? Should we start using initials instead of their name? TDCJ parents and Gparents is all about our children and Gchildren, will they be subject to cases if we continue the group?

There are so many questions about how they are trying to control us and our rights, are there any answers? We're listening.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@CS McClellan/Catana: Easy enough to resolve going forward if they just start using pseudonyms.

Great questions, Memorable!

Anonymous said...

Grits,

TDCJ is an organization but it's people who create policy. My question is, who specifically is driving the train on this stupidity?

sunray's wench said...

Your link to the Marshal Project article should be balanced with one that is not so biased towards the families of victims who want continued retribution (not all do), especially as the headline is misleading. It suggests that TDCJ inmates themselves previously had access to Facebook and other social media, which is not the case in any permitted sense.

TDCJ inmates do not have, and have not had, legal access in the first person to social media.

This ruling is a state agency trying to impose sanctions on those it has absolutely no juristiction over - people who are not wards of TDCJ. Many people around the world communicate with inmates, and many of those inmates are in Texas. TDCJ does not have juristiction over anyone living and using their own internet access outside of the US. Just as inmates in TDCJ have no control over what anyone in the free world puts on the internet about them.

Perhaps if TDCJ added international calls to the inmate phone system, those overseas might feel more disposed to a request from TDCJ to not promote TDCJ inmates across social media. Then again, perhaps not. Unless TDCJ also agree to pay the internet bills.

As your own post mentioned, around 70,000 inmates are released from TDCJ each year - some of these (mostly) men have been incarcerated for many years and have no support system on the outside except maybe one or two penpals. Should those inmates be rewarded or punnished for trying to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation (when TDCJ doesn't) and trying to sell artwork or other goods prior to their release with the help of a free world person, to try and prevent themsevles from being destitute upon release and statistically much more likely to commit another crime? Victims advocates (or the one mentioned in The Marshall Project's article at least) appear to prefer more crime, to positive rehabilitation.

And before anyone accuses me of not thinking about the victims, because many Americans only see the black and white of a situation (or just the white), I have lost friends and family to violent acts. I just don't think TDCJ or any other Correstional institution should take more than their pound of flesh.

From Dallas said...

INSANE, BARBARIC, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, MEAN.

Concerned said...

I agree: INSANE, BARBARIC, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, MEAN. May I add: bastards and control freaks. Lawsuit in the making. THEY ARE SCARED BECAUSE THEY ABUSE THEIR POWER DAILY> I hope they get theirs.

Concerned said...

Assholes! I am going to find out who died in prison, how, when, and why.
Then I am going to have blog and web pages all over the place.
They can't retaliate against dead people.
If they think they can stop FREE SPEECH they are wrong.
They are getting more and more Nazi-like.
There is already a labor strike. Do they want a revolution? We can start one: the pen is mightier than the sword. WE'LL TALK ABOUT THE DEAD ONES and call daily.
This is a provocation beyond imagination.
Please, join:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/texas.prison/

From Dallas said...

Social media exposure can reduce recidivism. Please, read this to understand:
"The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a serious problem that contributes to relapse in addicted and mentally ill offenders who are released from correctional institutions. Currently 60% of prisoners have been in prison before and there is growing evidence that the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a contributing factor to this high rate of recidivism. [i]
The concept of a post incarceration syndrome (PICS) has emerged from clinical consultation work with criminal justice system rehabilitation programs working with currently incarcerated prisoners and with addiction treatment programs and community mental health centers working with recently released prisoners.
..... there is a need for political action to reduce the number of prisoners and assure more humane treatment within our prisons, jails, and correctional institutions as a means of prevention. .... to develop objective testing tools and formal studies to add to our understanding of the problems encountered by released inmates that influence recovery and relapse.
The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a set of symptoms that are present in many currently incarcerated and recently released prisoners that are caused by being subjected to prolonged incarceration in environments of punishment with few opportunities for education, job training, or rehabilitation. The symptoms are most severe in prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and severe institutional abuse.
The severity of symptoms is related to the level of coping skills prior to incarceration, the length of incarceration, the restrictiveness of the incarceration environment, the number and severity of institutional episodes of abuse, the number and duration of episodes of solitary confinement, and the degree of involvement in educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs.

From Dallas said...

Continued from above:
The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a mixed mental disorders with four clusters of symptoms:
(1) Institutionalized Personality Traits resulting from the common deprivations of incarceration, a chronic state of learned helplessness in the face of prison authorities, and antisocial defenses in dealing with a predatory inmate milieu,
(2) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from both pre-incarceration trauma and trauma experienced within the institution,
(3) Antisocial Personality Traits (ASPT) developed as a coping response to institutional abuse and a predatory prisoner milieu, and
(4) Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome caused by prolonged exposure to solitary confinement that radically restricts social contact and sensory stimulation.
(5) Substance Use Disorders caused by the use of alcohol and other drugs to manage or escape the PICS symptoms.
PICS often coexists with substance use disorders and a variety of affective and personality disorders.
Symptoms of the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS)

From Dallas said...

Continued from above:
Below is a more detailed description of four clusters of symptoms of Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS):
1. Institutionalized Personality Traits
Institutionalized Personality Traits are caused by living in an oppressive environment that demands: passive compliance to the demands of authority figures, passive acceptance of severely restricted acts of daily living, the repression of personal lifestyle preferences, the elimination of critical thinking and individual decision making, and internalized acceptance of severe restrictions on the honest self-expression thoughts and feelings.
2. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [ii] is caused by both traumatic experiences before incarceration and institutional abuse during incarceration that includes the six clusters of symptoms: (1) intrusive memories and flashbacks to episodes of severe institutional abuse; (2) intense psychological distress and physiological reactivity when exposed to cues triggering memories of the institutional abuse; (3) episodes of dissociation, emotional numbing, and restricted affect; (4) chronic problems with mental functioning that include irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and an exaggerated startle response. (5) persistent avoidance of anything that would trigger memories of the traumatic events; (6) hypervigilance, generalized paranoia, and reduced capacity to trust caused by constant fear of abuse from both correctional staff and other inmates that can be generalized to others after release.,
3. Antisocial Personality Traits
Antisocial Personality Traits [iii] [iv] [v]are developed both from preexisting symptoms and symptoms developed during incarceration as an institutional coping skill and psychological defense mechanism. The primary antisocial personality traits involve the tendency to challenge authority, break rules, and victimize others. In patients with PICS these tendencies are veiled by the passive aggressive style that is part of the institutionalized personality. Patients with PICS tend to be duplicitous, acting in a compliant and passive aggressive manner with therapists and other perceived authority figures while being capable of direct threatening and aggressive behavior when alone with peers outside of the perceived control of those in authority. This is a direct result of the internalized coping behavior required to survive in a harshly punitive correctional institution that has two set of survival rules: passive aggression with the guards, and actively aggressive with predatory inmates.
4. Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome:
The Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome [vi] is caused by the effects of prolonged solitary confinement that imposes both social isolation and sensory deprivation. These symptoms include severe chronic headaches, developmental regression, impaired impulse control, dissociation, inability to concentrate, repressed rage, inability to control primitive drives and instincts, inability to plan beyond the moment, inability to anticipate logical consequences of behavior, out of control obsessive thinking, and borderline personality traits.
5. Reactive Substance Use Disorders
Many inmates who experience PICS suffer from the symptoms of substance use disorders [vii]. Many of these inmates were addicted prior to incarceration, did not receive treatment during their imprisonment, and continued their addiction by securing drugs on the prison black market. Others developed their addiction in prison in an effort to cope with the PICS symptoms and the conditions causing them. Others relapse to substance abuse or develop substance use disorders as a result of using alcohol or other drugs in an effort to cope with PICS symptoms upon release from prison.

From Dallas said...

I posted the above to illustrate the dire need to have family and outside connections which are vital to lessen the sense of despair and isolation felt by inmates. The above article can be found in its entirety here:
http://www.tgorski.com/criminal_justice/cjs_pics_&_relapse.htm

TDCJ: Please, reconsider passing this unconstitutional rule. It serves bobody's interest. Not even TDCJ's

From Dallas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
From Dallas said...

Clients with PICS are at a high risk for developing substance dependence, relapsing to substance use if they were previously addicted, relapsing to active mental illness if they were previously mentally ill, and returning to a life of aggression, violence, and crime. They are also at high risk of chronic unemployment and homelessness.
This is because released prisoners experiencing PICS tend to experience a six stage post release symptom progression leading to recidivism and often are not qualified for social benefits needed to secure addiction, mental health, and occupation training services.

Post Release Symptom Progression
· Stage 1 of this Post Release Syndrome is marked by Helplessness and hopelessness due to inability to develop a plan for community reentry, often complicated by the inability to secure funding for treatment or job training;
· Stage 2 is marked by an intense immobilizing fear;
· Stage 3 is marked by the emergence of intense free-floating anger and rage and the emergence of flashbacks and other symptoms of PTSD;
· Stage 4 is marked by a tendency toward impulse violence upon minimal provocation;
· Stage 5 is marked by an effort to avoid violence by severe isolation to avoid the triggers of violence;
· Stage 6 is marked by the intensification of flashbacks, nightmares, sleep impairments, and impulse control problems caused by self-imposed isolation. This leads to acting out behaviors, aggression, violence, and crime, which in turn sets the stages for arrest and incarceration.
Currently 60% of prisoners have been in prison before and there is growing evidence that the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a contributing factor to this high rate of recidivism.

Concerned said...

Perhaps they don't like social media because a revolution isa already in the making: As of Monday, April 18th, prisoners in Texas have been a labor strike for two weeks. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is retaliating by locking the prisons down and depriving prisoners of even the standard abysmal human necessities they are forced to provide. Retaliation against people who refuse to work for free is one of the tools prison administrators use to assure that prisoners can continue to be exploited in today’s modern day slave system.
Here are some of the reported conditions:
- The locked down prisoners are not receiving the hot meals. This means hundreds or thousands of prisoners have had nothing to eat but bologna or peanut butter sandwiches since April 4th.
- Mailroom staff is delaying or interfering with the delivery of inmate mail.
- There are reports of lights being left on during the night or left off during the day, other examples of petty harassment from trifling guards and threats that the lockdown treatment will extend for weeks or even months.
- Interfering with the prisoner’s access to basic necessities like food, sleep and connection with their families and the outside world is inhumane.
- Please stop punishing the prisoners for asserting their basic humanity, if you want them to come off the workstoppage, you should meet their demands.
The prisoners need sustained pressure on these institutions, so please call on Monday and then make plans to follow up at least once more later in the week, if not every day. Thank you!!!

Concerned said...

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2016/04/12/texas-inmates-strike

From Dallas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Concerned said...

Further, nobody knows just how many accounts have been taken down because those records are unavailable.

Facebook refused to provide documentation about government censorship in its transparency report.

The bottom line for inmates is social media can be the only thing they have in some states that connects them to the outside world, even if they’re not directly behind the account.

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Pat Hartwell, an anti-death penalty activist remarked, “these pages are beyond important because this is how the average joe finds out about the humanity of the people on death row.”

Hartwell currently updates a Facebook page for death row inmate Charles Flores.

But she removed his account so he wouldn’t get into trouble inside of prison.

Now, some are asking if the regulations are unconstitutional and encompass too much power.

Dave Maass, a researcher with EFF studied social media regulations and he believes that is the case.

“This policy violates free speech rights of both the inmates and the family members and friends of inmates,” Maass said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a prison to tell someone on the outside what they can and can’t post when it doesn’t involve criminal activity.”

Not only that, but if one prisoner has a beef with another, one way to attack them is to have someone they know create a social media account for that person.

Then that person goes away for 45 days if they’re found to be in violation of prison regulations.

Or even if they’re not.

In the end, the new policy really just a microcosm of the Texas prison system, and prison systems throughout the country.

One big mess.

And it’s going to take some sorting out.

One is not supposed to lose all their Constitutional rights upon entering prison.

........
Talk about being in “Facebook jail”.

Concerned said...

Further, nobody knows just how many accounts have been taken down because those records are unavailable.

Facebook refused to provide documentation about government censorship in its transparency report.

The bottom line for inmates is social media can be the only thing they have in some states that connects them to the outside world, even if they’re not directly behind the account.

Special: End of Diabetes?... Scientists Discover Diabetes Breakthrough
Pat Hartwell, an anti-death penalty activist remarked, “these pages are beyond important because this is how the average joe finds out about the humanity of the people on death row.”

Hartwell currently updates a Facebook page for death row inmate Charles Flores.

But she removed his account so he wouldn’t get into trouble inside of prison.

Now, some are asking if the regulations are unconstitutional and encompass too much power.

Dave Maass, a researcher with EFF studied social media regulations and he believes that is the case.

“This policy violates free speech rights of both the inmates and the family members and friends of inmates,” Maass said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for a prison to tell someone on the outside what they can and can’t post when it doesn’t involve criminal activity.”

Not only that, but if one prisoner has a beef with another, one way to attack them is to have someone they know create a social media account for that person.

Then that person goes away for 45 days if they’re found to be in violation of prison regulations.

Or even if they’re not.

In the end, the new policy really just a microcosm of the Texas prison system, and prison systems throughout the country.

One big mess.

And it’s going to take some sorting out.

One is not supposed to lose all their Constitutional rights upon entering prison.

........
Talk about being in “Facebook jail”.

Concerned said...

Sorry for the double post above: I am unable to remove one. Also, I lost the link to the original article. I apologize.

Concerned said...

Here's the link: from: https://photographyisnotacrime.com/2016/04/texas-prison-inmates-face-solitary-confinement-for-social-media-presence-maintained-by-families/

sunray's wench said...

How long before the BPP start to cite "unorthorised social media presence" as a reason for denial of parole?

From Dallas ~ thank you for posting that information. I'm going to see if it gets through the mailroom to hubby.

Anonymous said...

Did everyone forget about Roderick Johnson? He filed a lawsuit against TDCJ I Believe the Allred unit. He was released and supposedly his test came back dirty. He has been in Ad Seg ever since they took him back.

The Old Skool Preacher said...

Where is the ACLU in this kerfuffle? Surely the cause is just.

Anonymous said...

http://sfbayview.com/2016/04/tipping-point-in-texas-prison-strikes-the-history-of-slavery-is-at-stake/
April 16, 2016, Texas – Since April 4, prisoners in at least four Texas prisons have been on strike for better conditions and an end to slavery and human rights abuses. This strike is but the latest in a nationwide mass movement inside prisons for dignity and freedom.

Minimum wage in Texas prisons is zero dollars per hour. Access to medical care requires a $100 medical copay.

“My son and others are literally sitting down to say, ‘Stop killing us. Stop enslaving us. We are human. This has got to stop,’” said Judy, whose son’s prison is on lockdown. “I think the strike should spread. I believe prisoners and families together have the power to collapse this system.”

Striking prisons have been put on lockdown in an attempt to “conceal the strike,” and the battle of wills is being daily tested by the inhumanity of the administration. No lights, two peanut butter sandwiches a day, no phone, mail or visitation from the outside world. And likely far worse.

Since the strike’s inception, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) has been trying to contain the strike and paint the strikers as causing harm to inmates and families. They threaten additional lockdowns, forced transfers, violence – even a statewide lockdown.

“I know we with family inside are hurting when we are cut off from our loved ones – when we hear rumors of additional lockdowns, when they threaten locking us all out,” said Ann, whose husband is in Robertson and who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. “But don’t blame the brave souls standing up. Blame TDCJ. Blame those willing to torture families rather than give us justice.”

“Texas is running a slave plantation. They work with companies to take advantage of slave wages, and keep expenses as low as possible by forcing people into inhuman conditions. But prisons can’t run without inmate labor. Change is coming because prisoners are growing a mass movement in prisons, one that won’t stop until prison slavery is abolished,” says Nicholas Onwukwe, former prisoner and co-chair of the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee, which is organizing of support protests, including this one on April 9 in Austin, Texas.
“Texas is running a slave plantation. They work with companies to take advantage of slave wages, and keep expenses as low as possible by forcing people into inhuman conditions. But prisons can’t run without inmate labor. Change is coming because prisoners are growing a mass movement in prisons....
IWOC believes TDCJ’s actions to be an intentional, routine tactic. “They are trying to change who the enemy is,” said Nick Onwukwe, co-chair of IWOC and a former prisoner. “Trying to get you to believe the enemy isn’t the slave master; it’s the slave who sits down and says, ‘Enough!’”

Increasingly, lockdowns are becoming reality. Already there are additional lockdowns at Jester III, Dalhart and Beto, partial lockdowns at Coffield and Allred, and a confirmed order for lockdown at Michael for this morning, April 16. Is the strike spreading? Will TCDJ’s tactics backfire? We may be at a tipping point.

“This is not a time to watch,” said Brianna Peril, IWOC co-chair and former prisoner. “Gather your family and loved ones. Start a chapter. Go outside the nearest prison and make enough noise that those inside know the free world is with them. The history of slavery in the United States is at stake.”

Get ready!

The movement to end prison slavery is growing. Prisoners in Alabama have recently confirmed their commitment to striking this May, while prisoners across the country are calling for nationally coordinated prison shutdowns on the 45th anniversary of Attica this September.

Like all futures, it will be decided by those who show up. Get involved. Call. Donate. This is our time.

Contact IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at iwoc@riseup.net or 816-866-3808.

Anonymous said...

Just from the press: Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brad Livingston says he's retiring this summer (August), after being director of the state's prison system for nearly a dozen years, making him one of the longest-tenured ones in the agency's history.

GREAT NEWS! Finally! The jerk is retiring - Livingston made his announcement last week at a Board of Criminal Justice (BCJ) meeting in Austin. BAD NEWS: the nine-member panel that make the BCJ is named by the governor and will be responsible for finding his successor who will undoubtely be as corrupt a sociopath as Livingston.

He came to the prison system in October 1997 as Financial Services Division deputy director after working in the governor's budget and planning office and took over officially in the summer of 2005.
HE IS MOSTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SLAVE-LIKE CONDITIONS, LOWERING THE FOOD BUDGET, and INCREASING THE MISERY of 150,000 human beings. At the age of 53, he will have a 6-figure pension. I hope he will not be able to enjoy it and that the ghosts of people he contributed to slowly murdering while in his tenure, will haunt him in his sleeping and waking hours. But I doubt it: sociopaths have no remorse.

The agency has more than 38,000 employees and nearly 150,000 inmates. IT IS CORRUPT, CRUEL, BARBARIC, SELF-SERVING, RANCID, AMORAL, IMMORAL, UNCONSTUTIONALLY DRIVEN, and responsible for having created and for maintaining HELL ON EARTH for all who are involved, one way or another. It employees a large number of sociopaths not unlike his "guests" who are locked up. GOOD RIDDANCE LIVINGSTON. You will be in my prayers: daily! that Karma will make your life as hellish as you made that of too many. As a Hindu, I believe in Karma: it's coming your way friend!

From Dallas said...

Where is the ACLU in this kerfuffle? Surely the cause is just.
Where is the Prison Reform Project?
Where is the Families Inmates Association (TIFA)?
Where is the media publicizing the event?
Where is anybody?

All busy..... their silence is deafening. Thank-you GFB for being here.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, but relevant in that Texas is just famous for trying to pass unconstitutionally-based laws:

A federal district judge in San Antonio has issued an order stopping a Texas law criminalizing the harboring of illegal aliens, at least for now. The judge issued the preliminary injunction in MALDEF’s (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) lawsuit challenging Texas House Bill 11, a law which open border advocates are fighting because they say it improperly targets illegal alien shelters and those who rent to illegal aliens.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are David Cruz of San Antonio and Valentin Reyes of Farmers Branch, Texas, and Jonathan Ryan. Cruz and Reyes are both landlords who do not check whether their tenants are legally in the country. Jonathan Ryan is the Executive Director of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

The federal complaint states that “In his role as Executive Director of RAICES, Plaintiff Ryan provides shelter to immigrant women and children who are not authorized to be present in the U.S. and lack lawful immigration status. Many of the immigrant women and children sheltered by Plaintiff Ryan are asylum-seekers from East Africa and Central America who entered the U.S. without authorization and are in federal removal proceedings.”

The plaintiffs brought the lawsuit on January 24 and sued Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Steven C. McCraw, and members of the Texas Public Safety Commission.

The bi-partisan bill, signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott on June 9, 2015, gives power to the Texas Department of Public Safety, relates to military and law enforcement training, and the investigation, prosecution, punishment, and prevention of these offenses, it increases a criminal penalty, and authorizes fees.

The harboring provisions are part of a $800 million border security effort by the Texas Governor and the Texas legislature.

Melissaward said...

I have a group called family and friends of Texas inmates where we discuss all kinds of topics. Not your topic yet as I'm afraid it would freak us all out as most are moms. However, I think it's a great idea. TDCJ is trying to hide their dirty laundry!

Anonymous said...

@Melissa Ward: can you please tell us where to find your group? Many want to join. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Texas prison system will allow family and friends to use the internet to pay for food and other items for inmates. Texas prison system will allow for internet usage for people to pay for phone calls for inmates usage, and the purchase of stamps to keep inmates informed of the "outside" life. My question is, why the prison system allow internet usage to make money off the inmates, but want to enforce this facebook law? Will the next law require prison e-mails to inmates ceased?

Larry Coffin said...

I spent 20 years in TDCJ. They are all about control and restriction. They do not allow ANYTHING in an inmates possession except what is purchased in the commissary and books sent in from a legitimate bookstore. I witnessed time and again the warden or one of the "rank" saying things such as, "I see a POTENTIAL problem here. So, we need to do this or that to prevent that POTENTIAL problem. They have so many rules that they are impossible to keep abreast of. The rules are designed, in one fashion or another, to punish. For instance, I have pinched nerves in my back which cause feet numbness. I twisted my ankle and fell, as witnessed by a female guard who knew it was accidental and went to bat for me. It was on the way to chow, so I asked a lieutenant to go to the infirmary to check out my ankle as it was very swollen. He said to go but that I would be given a "case" for committing an "unsafe act". The guard had some choice words for the lieutenant and did not write me up. They want total and absolute control over everything and everyone. That control is designed to punish. Take away ALL freedoms. According to TDCJ rules, the only counseling available is restricted to the psych patients, and they are only allowed 15 minutes per months when the inmate patient goes in for a medication check. Before release, most, but not all, are put in "Cognitive Intervention" and "Changes" classes which are an absolute joke.
They have absolutely no incentives to encourage the inmates to better themselves. The men and women within the system go in, already beaten down by life in one way or another, they are beaten verbally and emtionally and psychologically further and then released. Parole is almost worse. I ain't no rocket scientist and I do have some smarts, but someone explain to me how that makes them law abiding and productive citizens.

Anonymous said...

@ Larry - Larry, I am glad you are out and made it. Keep strong and take care of yourself. Thank-you for sharing your story: the guards and the nurses can be no better than many psychopaths, some wardens are no different. Many do choose a career in criminal justice because it does fit their twisted personality.

Anonymous said...

Larry: I am so sorry you were the victim of these vicious animals called guards. Please read what "Dallas" described about the post-incarceration syndrome. It is important that you are aware to prevent further problems. Probably not everybody has got all these symptoms, but being aware is important even if one thinks they are all right. The brutality of the psychopaths in charge of the system leaves nobody unscathed. I am a family member and I suffer from ptsd just reading your stories and watching my dear husband suffer in that shithole. I am in weekly therapy and I passed on the info to my counselor.

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Anonymous said...

Hey its time for a Change!August, Brad Livingston will be out of office. Now we need to Remove the Secret Prison in Lubbock,Yes Civil Commitment! Judge Seiler has been Removed,it was time! Hey we the People canmake a Difference!Thank yall for all these Removals!����

Anonymous said...

Hey its time for a Change!August, Brad Livingston will be out of office. Now we need to Remove the Secret Prison in Lubbock,Yes Civil Commitment! Judge Seiler has been Removed,it was time! Hey we the People canmake a Difference!Thank yall for all these Removals!����

Anonymous said...

He will be gone in August,We the people need to Remove the State Senator John Whitmire,he has been there too long and is part of the click of Civil Commitment,Its Time!!!He was involved with the mess the last Director was doing and now a new mess and they are using alot of our Tax payers Money! Civil Commitment can be done all their therapy while they are in prison.John Whitmire is a part of Texas Civil Commitment and its all a waste of our Money,That money can be used for more Parole release supervisors. Greg Abbott also needs to make that change,there are men who fought for our Country in that Secret Prison!Military Men who have PTSD are in the Civil Commitment.These people need to be re evauated due to Judge Seiler all that was done was that were stamped into the secret prison.That is not what the program is about!

Anonymous said...

I find this article amusing as hell because I read this website all the time - while I am presently in the McConncell Unit. lol TDC = FAIL. I access the net via a proxy anyways so whatever!

For Timothy said...

@ 3:51:00 An inmate would never write such a post as s/he would not find anything "amusing" about the subject of this article. Even if you used a "proxy", you still would need an electronic device and if you got caught, it would be not be amusing at all and you would know it. You are a guard or a troll, or both. As to TDCJ (no longer TDC) being a failure: we all agree! As to guards being sorry psychopaths, it's just my opinion after having had to deal with them for years on end. Good luck to you, whoever you are.

Larry Coffin said...

As I said in an earlier post, I was in there for 20 years. Nothing amusing about it. As for the one who finds it "amusing", he will be back in at some point. As for the guards, the next revision of the DSM for psychiatry, the need to include a separate diagnosis for them. Something like "Prison Guard Psychopath Syndrome", or some such.

Unknown said...

Non-Texas people, check whether this is going on in your state. South Carolina is one example. It's worse than Texas. See https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/02/hundreds-south-carolina-inmates-sent-solitary-confinement-over-facebook for details.

Anonymous said...

I had missed this article but now I know what brought the torch wielding villagers to April's meeting. Inmates are not in prison for making responsible choices. Many of them are STILL not while locked up. With the help of dirty staff, they can get anything they want in there. Factual.
Remember Operation Cell Phone at McConnell? The inmates weren't wanting, acquiring, using the contraband cell phones for the warm, fuzzy reason of calling Mom, or their kids, were they? Well, actually mom and kids on the outside WERE involved in the criminal activities, themselves.
So, do you really think it's a good idea to give some of the most creative minds, with lots of time on their hands, more access, social media?
Sure, it's another perfect example of one bad apple ruining it for everyone. But it is real life. Often, the family is part of why they're IN prison. Whether they were just enablers to addictions, etc, or actually introduced them to a life of crime. which is also common within gangs.
Just last week, while I was visiting, watched a visitor that was caught trying to smuggle drugs. She will be spending some time in prison herself, for the felony she committed.
Erring on the side of caution, and prevention is what this approach is all about.
It is not IF someone would misuse it, but WHEN. And how? And how long would it take before they got caught? And, how many others would they have taught the "game " to?
Then, we would all blame TDCJ for whatever, or WHOEVER may have been harmed. There would be lawsuits. The same people that demanded it be allowed, would forget their accountability. And bitch about the money TDCJ spent.
Y'all have really got to take the blinders off, think worst case scenarios, then propose your fool proof plan to prevent it to TDCJ. While you're at it, copyright that plan. Then sell it the Federal government, Facebook, and any other entity you can name that has on going battles with the misuse of the internet.

From Dallas said...

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/29/texas-prisons-assert-right-to-censor-inmates-families-on-social-media/

Judith Jacobs said...

Does this social media ban policy apply to Texas federal inmates also