Historic City News has learned that three advocacy groups are poised to sue the State of Florida if the Department of Corrections attempts to enforce a blanket denial of Internet access from state prisoners.
The Florida Justice Institute raised constitutional objections early this month to a proposed administrative rule forbidding inmates to use the Internet; a restriction that is already policy at the Department.
“They could be harassing or speaking to victims, all sorts of things,” spokeswoman Misty Cash said yesterday. “Inmates are not supposed to have Internet access; they do not have email access now, so social media is definitely a no-no.”
The agency thinks a written rule is needed to prevent inmates from plotting new crimes with cohorts on the outside, or using social media to scam new-found friends.
The Florida Institutional Legal Services Project and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida joined in the protest by the Justice Institute — a private litigation firm that works to resolve public disputes.
Together, the advocates say the prisoners did not surrender their First Amendment rights when they entered the state prison system. Florida Justice Institute attorney, Dante Trevisani, said the rule would censor “political commentary, complaints about abuse, and possibly unflattering depictions of prison conditions, personal essays or memoirs, news stories, poetry, fiction, artwork, information about their appeals, proclamations of innocence or pleas for a sentence commutation.”
Trevisani said existing rules govern use of regular inmate mail — requiring them to identify themselves as prisoners, and forbidding them to use third parties to solicit money, or to “cover their tracks”. Trevisani wrote that the Department might amend the rule to forbid prisoners from posting “certain forms of harmful communications” on the Internet.
The Department of Corrections has withdrawn the proposed administrative rule, although it continues to enforce its standing “no Internet” policy for prisoners. Cash said the rule was withdrawn “for some tweaking and adjustment” and that the department is consulting North Carolina and South Dakota authorities who have recently dealt with the changing communications landscape.
Category: HistoricCity 9-1-1