There are a lot of things you could do to rack up a “level-one offense” as an inmate in South Carolina. You could start a riot, rape an inmate, commit a murder, or take a hostage. Or you could simply update you Facebook status.
South Carolina is, thankfully, on the extreme end of the prison system’s attempt to deal with inmates’ use of social media. And, to be fair, there are legitimate reasons for concern. Inmates have been caught using Facebook to continue harassing their victims from behind bars and even sending threatening messages to witnesses. But for many it’s just a way to maintain tenuous connections to friends and family. And if South Carolina hasn’t taken the time to discern between two very different activities, neither had Facebook, which eliminated inmate accounts whenever requested by correctional officers.
And while it’s cool that Facebook wants to treat people equally regardless of their criminal records, without some prisons voluntarily changing their rules or some form of legislation, this will remain a battle ground for freedom of speech. That’s cold comfort to the South Carolina inmate who got sentenced to more than 37 years in isolation for social networking.