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U.S. Considers Prison Social Media Ban, Concerning Inmates

A proposed U.S. prison rule change may penalize inmates for social media use or soliciting it, cutting off a crucial connection to the outside world for some, The Guardian reports. While federal inmates nationwide are already prohibited from using cell phones, the crackdown proposed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), goes a step further. Inmates using social media or having families run their accounts have been proposed to be classified as high risk, putting them in the same category as violence, fighting, or damaging property. “There is no articulated reason, explanation or justification to this,” said Shanna Rifkin of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “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.”

Over the last decade, social media has become an increasingly essential tool for many of the approximately 2 million people incarcerated nationwide. Storytelling and advocacy have found homes on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, allowing inmates to share their stories with a global audience. Clemency petitions often gain traction when delivered this way, giving families and individuals an accessible platform without needing a deep legal understanding that is much more likely to result in change. Social media has also become a perhaps unrivaled way of shedding light on the abuse happening inside prisons. Poor living conditions and civil rights violations are routine topics on these platforms, with hashtags like #prisontok and #prisonlife getting tens of thousands of views. Videos show everything from cramped bunk rooms to horrible food to unsanitary bathrooms, introducing online audiences to an honest portrayal of everyday life behind bars.


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