Facebook to close California prison inmate accounts

Posted Aug 20, 2011 by Kim I. Hartman
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in cooperation with Facebook, is working to close the accounts of inmates who have been accessing the site with contraband cellphones to update their status and harass victims of their crimes.
Facebook page
Facebook page
A blog by the CDCR details the problems prison officials have had with social media networks, including the popular website Facebook. According to the prison blog, the CDCR was contacted by the mother of a victim of a child molester after returning home from a vacation and finding mail from a California state prison inmate that contained sketches of their 17-year-old daughter.
The sketches bore a striking resemblance to the teenager who had not been seen by the man for over 10 years, or so the parents thought. "A prison investigation found that the inmate had been using a cellphone smuggled into the prison to view the girl's MySpace and Facebook pages where he was able to obtain current photographs he used to draw her pictures."
The CDCR said that inmates who created profiles on the social media site prior to being incarcerated will not have their accounts deleted unless they attempt to access them while in prison.
Facebook policy lets inmates use the website if they are in a prison where Internet access is permitted. "But since California prohibits inmates from using the Web, the company confirmed that it is working with state officials to remove them from Facebook," reports Reuters. "Facebook's policies prohibit anyone except the registered user from updating a Facebook account."
“Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement reported by CNN.. “This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims.”
California prison officials said over 7,000 cellphones have been recovered from inmates in the first six months of 2011. In December, prison officials admitted that Charles Manson has been caught twice with an illegal cellphone. Recently a parolee was caught sneaking into Folsom Prison with what officials believe was contraband, possibly including cellphones for the inmates.
California legislators have attempted make it a felony to smuggle cellphones into state prisons, but that legislation was vetoed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The CDCR ask that concerned citizens report all accounts accessed by inmates or on their behalf to the CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights & Services, by calling 1-877-256-OVSS (6877) or e-mail
A registered sex offender’s Facebook account can be reported here. Facebook policy forbids convicted sex offenders from creating a profile on the website.
Screen shots of California inmate's Facebook pages found by prison officials to be currently updated using contraband cellphones can be seen here.