According to a new offender manual from Texas Department of Criminal Justice, prisoners whose families maintain a social media presence to call attention to their incarceration will be liable to harsh punishment, including up to 45 days in solitary, loss of privileges, and extra work duty.
EFF does not oppose prison restrictions that target criminal behavior or harassment on social media by inmates. However, a person does not lose all of their rights to participate in public discourse when they are incarcerated. Supporters of inmates often use social media to raise attention about prison conditions and the appeal campaigns of individual prisoners. This policy would not only prohibit the prisoners' exercise of their First Amendment rights, but also prevent the public from exercising their First Amendment rights to gather information about the criminal justice system from those most affected by it. If Martin Luther King, Jr. had written "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" today from a Texas prison, this policy would prohibit his wife from publishing it on his social media accounts.
As EFF previously reported, policies like these have been abused by prisons across the country, most notably in South Carolina, where inmates sometimes received more than a decade in solitary confinement for maintaining a presence on social media.
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE OFFENDER ORIENTATION HANDBOOK [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]
Texas Prison System Unveils New Inmate Censorship Policy
Texas is banning inmates from having social media accounts
(Image: Cellule du quartier d'isolement de la prison Jacques-Cartier, à travers le judas, Rennes, France, Édouard Hue, CC-BY-SA)