Southern California -- this just in

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Facebook will take down prisoners' illegal pages

August 9, 2011 | 10:48 am


Facebook has agreed to help California prisons take down inmates' illegal pages, but the company says the state's best bet is to keep contraband cellphones out of prisoners' hands.

"If a state has decided that prisoners have forfeited their right to use the Internet, the most effective way to prevent access is to ensure prisons have the resources to keep smartphones and other devices out," said company spokesman Andrew Noyes.  "We will disable accounts reported to us that are violating relevant U.S. laws or regulations or inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside."

On Monday, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation administrators announced that they have started reporting inmate pages to Facebook's security team.

"Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity," Corrections Department Secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement posted on the prison system's website.

It's not just inmates posting on their own social media pages that worries prison administrators. Some have used their contraband cellphones to troll their victims' pages and harass them from behind bars. A child molester who has been incarcerated for at least seven years recently sent up-to-date drawings of a victim to her house. He'd apparently sketched portraits of the now 17-year-old girl from photos he found on her MySpace and Facebook pages, according to Monday's statement.

Noyes promised Facebook will "take appropriate action" against anyone who uses the site to threaten or harass.

In 2006, California corrections officers found 261 contraband cellphones behind prison walls. They found more than 7,200 in the first six months of this year, according to the statement.

Unlike visitors, prison employees are not searched on the way into the facilities; they have long been considered a primary source of contraband phones, which can fetch as much as $1,000 each. Currently, it is a violation of prison rules to smuggle a phone inside and pass it to an inmate, but it is not illegal. So a profiteering employee can be fired but not prosecuted.

A pending bill by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would make smuggling a phone to an inmate a crime punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.


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-- Jack Dolan

Photo: Example of an inmate's Facebook page. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Facebook security via Flickr