Wednesday, 18 May 2011 02:34

Senate panel OKs bill barring inmates from Facebook and other websites

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ARTHUR D. LAUCK/The Advocate
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, left, and state Department of Corrections Undersecretary Thomas Bickham told lawmakers Tuesday that inmates are using social networking websites such as Facebook to intimidate peopl

Prison inmates would be banned from using Facebook, MySpace and Twitter through a bill that cleared a Senate committee Tuesday after a hasty rewriting to ease lawmakers’ concerns about the legality of the legislation.

“With these social networking sites, we have absolutely no control. I don’t really want to put the department in charge of who’s friending whom,” said Thomas Bickham, undersecretary of the is phentermine safe while trying to get pregnant Louisiana Department of Corrections.

Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary B approved the legislation but chided prison officials for not doing enough to keep phones with Internet capability out of the hands of inmates.

A Facebook official said preventing the Internet traffic from streaming through the prison walls is the best solution although the social networking giant will delete inmate accounts that are updated by someone on the outside.

“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 smart phones and other devices out,” said Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications for Facebook, in an email. Senate Bill 182 would make it unlawful for an inmate to establish or maintain an Internet-based social networking website.

Similar legislation to ban convicted sex offenders from using Facebook and similar websites is stalled in the House.

As originally written, SB182 also would have prevented anyone from establishing an account for an inmate.

State Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport, said that would prevent people from establishing networking accounts to advocate for someone’s release.

She said advocates sometimes rally around the cause of a prisoner believed to have been wrongfully convicted.

“You are restricting my First Amendment rights because I am advocating on behalf of someone that is in jail,” Jackson said.

State Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, said the legislation needed to be tightened.

“I agree with your bill on principle,” Chabert told the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi.

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