The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has proclaimed a new policy to cut off prisoners’ communication with the outside world, according to Fusion.net. This includes accounts maintained on their behalf by others.
[Texas spokesperson Jason] Clark said that the department will reach out to social media companies to ask that accounts in inmates’ names be taken down, and that the new rule will strengthen their ability to do so. Inmates who are found to have social media accounts would be punished with a level three disciplinary violation, the lowest level violation in the system.
Texas is holding its prisoners hostage, demanding that websites remove information from prisoners under the threat of punishing the prisoners. It’s so blatant an attempt to cut prisoners off from the rest of the world that you’d almost wonder why the officials don’t feel any sense of shame. But if they were capable of feeling shame, they wouldn’t be working there. They just want to make sure as few people as possible know about appeals, abuses, and bad conditions.
Clark offers the excuse that “offenders have used social media accounts to sell items over the internet based on the notoriety of their crime, harass victims or victim’s families, and continue their criminal activity.” Continuing criminal activity is by definition already illegal, and prisoners can still sell things through someone else (which would work better anyway; being a convicted criminal makes a seller less, not more, attractive). What the officials really don’t want to get out is that guards beat disabled prisoners and ignore rape.
I maintain a blog for Bill Wells, though he hasn’t sent me anything to post in a long time. He’s in the federal prison system, so this doesn’t affect him, but if he were a Texas prisoner, I’d be getting a letter demanding that I remove the blog if I don’t want bad things to happen to him.
The Texas government has obviously learned from Alabama. Birmingham Jail let Martin Luther King send out a letter, and look what happened. They don’t want a repetition of that. If any websites receive demands to take down prisoners’ accounts, backed by a threat to punish the prisoners if they don’t, they should publicize the threat as widely as possible.