Should Convicts HAVE Access to the Internet?

Why no weights? They’re cheap, and keep the guys busy.
As for the OP, I’d say the internet should be a priviledge, earned by good behavior.
It’s supposed to be a prison, not a dungeon, fer crissakes.
A lot of them are in because they got caught with dope, or some such non-violent crime.
No pedophiles or other sex crime convicts, of course.

Prison is the systematic withdrawal of some of an individual rights as a punishment for transgressions against society.

To this end a prisoner is denied,

The right to procreation,
The right to vote,
Deprivation of goods and service,
Deprivation of autonomy,
Deprivation of security.

Access to the internet would counter at least two of those principles and I will leave your imagination to run riot with the rest.

The number of prisoners who do appeal is relatively small and they have access to legal representation which has far more expert knowledge than most inmates can possibly hope to have.

Of course it is, that paper has to be sent out through the prison mail system and is therefore available for scrutiny.
They are not denied self-expression as long as it complies with the law, they can still write(assuming their education is up to it)

Let’s look at this from another angle.

Imagine that a prisoner uses the internet to locate and intimidate witnsses, or that despite controls inmates find a way to access confidential information(there are a few who are serving time for computor crime)

What do you imagine would be the response of the media and the public to such events?

“Just using the internet as an educational tool” is certainly not going to placate the various investigative comittees who will reasonably point out the it was an event that was always likely to occur.
It would then be pointed out that the inmates are in prison for punishment and reform - not to go cruising the internet.
The cost of the exercise as opposed to the benefits would come under close scrutiny.

Heads would roll.

It depends on the prisoner. Anyone in prison for real crimes such as murder, rape, or robbery do not deserve the right. People in prison for drug abuse should have the right. They don’t belong in prison anyway. They abused them selves, (their free choice), they did not do harm society, (unless they robbed someone to get their fix). The internet and the information found therein might help these people.

For the people who are in prison for real crimes, they deserve no benefits.

O don’t know abut the rest of the country, but here is ALabama prisons are required to have an up-to-date law library. In fact, msot prisons have a better law library than most universities.

Although I am not fundamentally adverse to the idea of some sort of computer labs/internet access in prisons (in 50 years, I suspect it will seem odd not to have them) what with resource being finate I think money could be better spent in any number of ways.

Because we end up eith a situation where the only people with the time and the equiptment to make themselves really buff are the convicted (many of them violent) felons.

I agree fully with casdave here.
The point of Prison is to deny convicts some of the rights and privileges that belong to free people. Spoiling them and letting them do whatever they want is contradictory to that purpose.

Also, I have a serious problem with inmates demanding (and being granted) “RIGHTS” that we supposedly OWE them, such as TV, Movies, Pornography (successful lawsuits against prison systems granted the right to porno movies & magazines), Internet access, etc. News flash: Law-abiding people need to WORK to earn money to PAY for these things. We don’t get to demand a new color tv or free movies or internet access. A prison inmate is not entitled to anything that I’m not entitled to.

They want entertainment? Let them read and watch basic tv.
Come ON! The Internet is NOT a right.
Who was it-Bear Nemo-who said they work with prisoners?
Come on! Think of some master hacker who’s in jail for some other reason…I find it too scary.
There are enough freaks on the net as it is!

Little Nemo not Bear Nenno. Even the search engine gets us confused.

Prisoners are allowed a fairly wide variety of material. But we do have a media review committee which can prohibit books, magazines, even music tapes if there is cause. Pornography is generally unrestricted; if it’s legal on the street, they can have it. Convicts are also allowed to have material about their crimes; in fact, for legal reasons, it’s one of the most guaranteed types of material for them to own. (As a side note, Manda JO is right that inmates have full law library access, which includes the assistance of trained inmate legal clerks.) Most material that is prohibited is done for security reasons; because they describe how to perform criminal activities, escape material (including maps), prison or police procedures, weapons making, martial arts, etc. Material which is felt to be likely to incite unrest, either between inmate groups or directed against staff, is also prohibited. Anything related to inmate or criminal gangs or which advocates group demonstrations is prohibited.

NiceGuyJack, personally I agree with you that drug use shouldn’t be illegal (and I’m speaking as a person who doesn’t smoke, drink, or use any other from of drugs). But regardless of our personal opinions, we can’t distinguish between “real crimes” and other types of crime. The law, which is arrived at by democratic means, clearly defines what is illegal and what the punishments will be for performing these acts. So drug use is a “real crime” just the same as murder or rape.

Little Nemo, I’m curious. Does weight training have a negative impact on prison life? I can see where it might make a inmate more intimidating to others, but it might also act as an equalizer. And it surely helps keep them occupied.
Sorry about the hijack, but this has already turned into a prisoners rights debate anyway. :slight_smile:

Given that most inmates are not intelletually equipped to find satisfaction in reading, weights and sports are a good way for inmates to burn off their frustrations and stress.

In my jail the inmates pick which gym sessions they want to go on, depending on the activity, and are released from work for the 1 hour session.Sometimes other appointment will clash with their gym time, they might be called up by the reception to collect goods that have arrived for example or a doctors appointment. It is very common for them to prefer to go to the gym .
You have to wonder at their priorities because there are boards which sit and review their prison progress which they don’t have to attend, but it is advantageous for them to do so, and yet they will go to the gym instead.

You often see inmates come in who are over 6’ tall but only weigh like 150 pounds, this because of drug use, and within a matter of a month the weight comes back on.
You also see smaller guys come in looking fairly intimidated by the whole experience and in a couple of months have gained a lot of muscle bulk and seem more confident.

There are a lot of steroids in jail.

Drug use illegal? well that’s another thread but inmates are not allowed alchohol and that is perfectly legal.

  1. Doesn’t this give away their rather specific location? I see this rather as my having an email address

  2. What if said convict were later found to be innocent? They’d have that on their permanent record or no?

Puh-lease! Some of those convicts would probably be IN jail for stuff they did online . . . i.e. computer fraud, credit stuff . . . they’d know how to bypass netnanny inside of five minutes! Now, if you had a penalty for doing as much . . .

They waived the right to do that, IMO, when they did the shit that landed them in jail.

However, I do think it’s good for them to have some access to the outside world, if for nothing else than to say “kids, don’t do this. It’s not worth the time in jail.” Then when Rebellious Teen A says, “yeah, right, like they’d let you on. What a load of bullshit,” convict A can say, “I should know. I AM in jail. Look at my damn email address, you little punk!”

Or something like that, anyway. Why keep convicts separated from the country if we can put them to work dissuading others from killing, robbing, etc?


Hey, they can watch tv can’t they? They can talk on the phone can’t they?
What’s the internet but another form of media. They have as much right to it as any other one.
Of course folks convicted of computer crime (a very small minority of the prison population) shouldn’t be allowed near anything hooked up to a network. Pedophiles shouldn’t be allowed to work in daycares either. Duhh
Of course there would be restrictions, I don’t think it would it would be that hard to police the internet use of folks that were probably lucky to graduate high school.

At the same time, the internet gives you more freedom than the television. It’s a far more powerful medium of communication. Substantially harder to get information via television than via the internet. Also, the TV doesn’t really allow for two-way correspondence.

However, I don’t think that being a convict precludes one from having as much information as possible. Especially for those who are imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. Not allowing someone the basic knowledge to which they are entitled is wrong, IMNSHO.

A lot of criminals (and no, I don’t have a cite for this, it’s just something I’ve found to be true from documentaries) have graduated from high school. A pretty good number have graduated from college, and the higher the intelligence required to commit the crime, the higher up in school you need to have gotten.

In addition, not having graduated from high school or college doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know your shit about computers or anything else. I have a friend who’s not been to college yet who’s one of the founders of . . . that’s right, a dotcom company. Went to work for netscape as one of their senior programmers right out of highschool. Only times he’s been on a college campus was visiting and the parties.

Talking on a phone can be monitored and there is no possibility of causing damage or any other criminal activity to other computor systems.
Unless voice activated computors come a long way in a very short time this is likely to remain the case.

Limiting access by inmates with computor expertise is not going to work.
Such individuals will gain access through another inmate.
Relying on the restraint of the computor literate inmate is not possible either because there are those who will coerce them once they become aware of the potential of the internet.

There may come a time when the net can be used in a way that prevents malicious activity but then that calls into question the whole set of ideals involved in the net.

Your friend isn’t in prison though is he? He has many more opportunities and smarts than most folks that rob a liquor store or steal a car.

I doubt that prisoners would get more than an hour or two a week on the computer.They wouldn’t want to spend too much money on multiple computers. This would probably be enough time to check email from a loved one, maybe check out a prison advocacy site, surf for a little porn and then their time would be up.It would be easy enough to have a guard present that could see most of the monitors at once. If they had found some way to circumvent the net security, it wouldn’t take a genius to tell someone was at a hate or child porn site.

Convicts also have potential to commit mail fraud without the internet.

Also I think using computers, even the internet, is becoming a job skill for just about everyone:
“Hey Joe, this guy needs a new transmission for an '85 tercell, would you look on the net and see if we can get one by tuesday?”
The prison might be the first opportunity for some of these people to get their hands on a computer.

casdave, I’m a little bit confused, if those who have computer skills are prevented from using them, nobody could coerce them to do anything anyway.

Or maybe he’s never needed something badly enough to commit a crime to get it, or wanted something bad enough, etc.

As for his intelligence, I doubt that without the internet or local public library he’d have the intelligence or cunning or whatever to be a mass murderer or make a bomb that destroyed itself (the things you can’t trace) . . . there are criminals far smarter than he is, as is evidenced by the ones who haven’t yet been caught.

“It would be easy enough to have a guard present that could see most of the monitors at once.”

And how would the guards be protected from the convicts?

“If they had found some way to circumvent the net security, it wouldn’t take a genius to tell someone was at a hate or child porn site.”

We still haven’t said what is and isn’t prevented from access by netnanny or whatever. What if the guard didn’t know something was not accessible without hacking the netnanny program?

“Convicts also have potential to commit mail fraud without the internet.”

True. However, the internet makes it much, much more simple.

““Hey Joe, this guy needs a new transmission for an '85 tercell, would you look on the net and see if we can get one by tuesday?””

Why not just go to a local junkyard and find one there?

Sorry, Little Nemo!

You folks are way overestimating the intelligence and cunning of the average prisoner. Yes, there are bright criminals, but they aren’t that hard to spot in the general prison population. And personnally, if they haven’t committed fraud or computer related crime, I don’t see any reason why we should suspect them more than anyone else.

Gee… if I saw a picture with a huge swastika on it or some naked preteen girl I think I could figure out that the prisoners weren’t supposed to be looking at it.
Hacking into the system software wouldn’t look like visiting either. I don’t know what precautions prisons take for the safety of gaurds but I don’t see why it would be that hard to supervise a computer lab.
You might look on the internet for a transmission for the same reason people everywhere look for everything else. Because it’s easy to quickly comparison shop for everything and get the cheapest price. Also your local junkyard might not have the part you need, and you could tell the customer right then and there when you were getting the part and what it would cost. Maybe I live in a high tech area, but just about every mechanic shop I’ve been to lately has a computer to figure out bills, and make reciepts. By the time some of these folks get out of prison just about everything is going to require computer skills of some kind. Not letting them have the opportunity is just about garaunteeing a repeat offender.

OOPS! Sorry I was addressing iampunha not Guinastasia (sorry about the mispelling BTW)

From what I’ve heard, what makes the most intelligent criminals so difficult to catch is that they don’t look like your stereotypically average criminal. And they don’t look like much in prison, either.

<Gee… if I saw a picture with a huge swastika on it or some naked preteen girl I think I could figure out that the prisoners weren’t supposed to be looking at it.>

m3, what kind of sites would you ban prisoners from looking at? I’m not saying that all sites would look totally innocent, just that they wouldn’t all be glaring at prison guards on duty with the force of a nuclear warhead and a 13-year-old doing porn.

<Hacking into the system software wouldn’t look like visiting either. I don’t know what precautions prisons take for the safety of gaurds but I don’t see why it would be that hard to supervise a computer lab.

Hacking the system’s software might be as simple as going into dos and doing a deltree of the folder the netnanny software was it. Something like . . . deltreeC:
etnanny might do the trick.

Point taken about the car part, but I still think there are alternatives to the internet.