Bureau of Prisons Considers Crackdown on Inmates’ Social Media Use

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Prisoners in the United States might face penalties for using social media or having family members manage their accounts if a proposal from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is approved.

The BOP’s proposed policy would categorize inmates who use social media or have their accounts managed by relatives as “high risk,” similar to those charged with violence, fighting, or property damage, according to The Guardian.

The rationale behind the agency’s desire to specifically target detainees’ social media use remains unclear, reported Reuters.

Federal inmates are already restricted from using cellphones. Nevertheless, social media, with its vast global reach, has become a significant tool for storytelling and advocacy from behind bars, noted the National Criminal Justice Association. Online platforms have also played a role in exposing abuse and poor conditions in some prisons.

Shanna Rifkin, deputy general counsel at Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told The Guardian, “There is no articulated reason, explanation or justification for this. It reads as an afterthought, but I can assure you that for incarcerated people and their loved ones, it is anything but. Social media is a tool of connection, and connection to family and friends is more important than ever when someone you love is incarcerated.”

Katie Smith
Katie Smith
Digital Reporter. Previously, Katie wrote about crime and court for the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She’s also reported on similar beats for the Daily Chronicle and the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs. Katie earned her journalism degree from Eastern Illinois University, where she also studied English and photojournalism.

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