Prisoners throughout the Tennessee prison system have been caught posting photos of themselves engaged in very disturbing activities on their personal Facebook pages, WSMV-TV 4 reports.
So far the Tennessee Department of Corrections has disciplined 70 inmates at 14 prisons around the state. Channel 4 reports that its investigation uncovered more than 100 cases of inmates operating their own personal Facebook pages from behind bars. Those pages include “photos and videos of convicted criminals claiming to be using drugs, flashing large amounts of cash, partying, hoarding snacks and, in one case, setting a shirt on fire inside a prison cell.”
Many of the men enjoying Facebook access are convicted rapists and murderers.
Convicted murderer Brandon White, who killed Ryan Wright, posted pictures of his phone and himself holding $200 cash.
“That’s not punishment. That’s not any kind of punishment. It’s just like being out on the outside. It’s still freedom for them,” said Ryan’s mother, Linda Wright. “We can never communicate again. And he (Brandon White) has access to be able to communicate with the outside world.”
Ivan Moreno, who was convicted of killing an elderly woman, was found on Facebook showing pictures of himself playing a guitar inside a cell. “My eyes started watering. I started shaking. I couldn’t believe I could see him again,” said Sadler’s granddaughter, Michelle Elliot.
Here is more from WSMV-TV 4:
(Channel 4) showed all the pictures and videos to TDOC Assistant Commissioner Tony Parker, who is in charge of security in state prisons.
“Is this too extravagant for a guy to have who is behind bars?” a reporter asked.
“Obviously, this inmate is trying to be flagrant and show off all this property. Obviously, it’s an issue,” Parker said.
The reporter asked how all this can be happening while correctional officers are watching.
“It’s not an issue of not enough correctional officers. It’s an issue of a nationwide problem with cell phones and the struggle to stay on top of it,” Parker said.
The Channel 4 I-Team found that in some cases, even the families and friends of the inmates were surprised to see the freedom the convicted criminals had through Facebook.
In one posting, someone wrote, “How are you locked up and on Facebook?”
“Every correctional facility struggles with contraband. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s the reality,” Parker said.
“I think my first question would be, how is this happening?” Linda Wright asked.
It’s obvious that someone is bringing the phones into the prisons, but the state’s own records show that in a year’s time, only one person – Jeanette Elliott – has been convicted of bringing a cell phone into a Tennessee prison.
As soon as the Channel 4 I-Team brought our findings to the state, they immediately launched investigations in 14 prisons across the state, finding 53 cell phones as well as drugs and a deadly weapon.
WSMV-TV 4 reports that while the 70 inmates have been disciplined, their pages have not been taken down.