TDCJ Initiates Inmate Censorship Policy
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice initiated a new inmate censorship policy. The new Offender Orientation Handbook, released earlier this month, contains a new provision punishing offenders for having a social media presence even if it is managed by a friend or family member.
The new section prohibits inmates from "maintaining active social media accounts for the purposes of soliciting, updating, or engaging others, through a third party or otherwise."
Violators of the new policy will be charged with a level three disciplinary violation which can result in solitary confinement for up to 45 days, loss of privileges, extra work duty and loss of some or all accrued "good time" credits. While the effects of the violations are not specifically mentioned in the manual, one problem is that the loss of good time credit can mean the offender isn't granted parole.
The new rule is, allegedly, designed to allow Texas prison officials to ask social media sites to take down inmate profiles which prevents friends and family members of inmates from posting about prison conditions while incarcerated.
ParoleNow.com believes this type of censorship is a violation of the inmates' First Amendment rights and if the rule is challenged in court it will eventually be struck down. Inmates' families and friends should be free to campaign about prison conditions on behalf of inmates.
Social media posts by friends and family has cause several inmates to be punished with solitary confinement, with some receiving decades-long punishments simply for posting to Facebook or even just having their families manage their account.
Since 2011, prison officials sent Facebook thousands of takedown requests of inmates' profiles. Facebook has complied with these requests but recently made the bold move to no longer suspend an inmate's profile unless state or federal laws are broken. Facebook stated the company is not in the business of enforcing prison regulations that ban inmates from having social media accounts. Facebook claims they will only remove or suspend profiles it believes has violated the social network's Terms of Service or community standards.
ParoleNow.com will continue to monitor the situation and will post updates as more information is available.
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