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S. Carolina ponders 'Facebook felon' bill

March 21, 2011 at 7:59 PM   |   Comments

CHARLESTON, S.C., March 21 (UPI) -- South Carolina is considering a bill adding a fine and 30 days onto the sentence of inmates caught using a cellphone to access a social network site.

South Carolina state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Democrat from Charleston, has proposed what may be a precedent-setting measure imposing a $500 fine and as much as a month more onto the jail sentence of prisoners caught using a mobile phone to create or use a Facebook or Twitter account, The Christian Science Monitor reported Monday.

Gilliard says the "Facebook felon" bill is a countermeasure to what he calls "a slap in the face" to victims and society.

Criminalizing inmate use of social media, even though inmate use of cellphones is already prohibited, could infringe on First Amendment rights, critics of the bill say -- arguing that the real problem is the flow of contraband such as drugs and cellphones into jails and prisons, the newspaper reported.

"This is a meaningless strategy that makes it look like you're doing something about contraband and you're not," says Michele Deitch, a prison policy expert at the University of Texas at Austin. "Adding 30 days to someone's sentence is not going to keep them from doing this. What needs to happen is better controls within the prison."

Deitch says corruption among prison guards adds to the problem.

"Prisons are cities and they need to be stocked with supplies all the time, and that's how (most) contraband comes in," Deitch said.

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