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House passes bill to punish inmates on social networking sites

Legislators passed a bill this week that would make it illegal for prison inmates to have a Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking account.

The bill gained momentum earlier this year after news reports found roughly a dozen inmates in South Carolina were on those sites. Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) said inmates are able to access the internet through phones that are smuggled into the prisons.

By virtue of modern day technology, our inmates, while incarcerated… now have a means of freedom that, in a sense, they do not deserve.

Gilliard said he was concerned inmates could use the sites to send out coded messages. Under the bill, any violators face 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. That would include anyone on the outside who maintained an account in the inmate’s name. The legislation passed by a 92-6 vote Wednesday.

There were a few lawmakers who questioned why a law was even necessary, since sites like Facebook have rules already in place. Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) said legislators were rushing the bill through without considering any negative effects it might have.

This bill did not go through committee. It has not been through subcommittee. We had no hearings on it and… if we pass this bill, we’re going to get sued. The ACLU and others have already said they’re going to sue us over it.

The bill now heads to the Senate.


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