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Bill to ban SC inmates from social media gets changes
By scnow.com - ROBERT KITTLE
Published: 05/04/2012

COLUMBIA, SC -- A bill that would have made it illegal for South Carolina prison inmates to have social media accounts, like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, is being changed because of concerns about enforcement and unintended consequences.

Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, sponsored the bill after being contacted by constituents about inmates using Facebook. "While people were serving time behind bars, they were actually, thanks to modern-day technology, using this as a means as to intimidate people, their victims actually, while serving time," he says.

Inmates use cell phones to access the sites and update their pages, even though it's illegal to have cell phones in prison. Prisoners don't have computer access. The state Department of Corrections has been having problems for years with cell phones being smuggled in or thrown over prison fences.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, says the bill is well-intentioned but unnecessary. "The Department of Corrections already has a penalty in place for contraband. Cell phones in prisons are contraband. That would be the only way that an inmate could access a social media website," he says.

A conference committee of three senators and three House members is trying to work out a final version of the bill. Gilliard and Rutherford are two of the House members. The House passed the bill to ban inmates from having social media accounts, but the Senate changed it to make it apply only to state prisoners, not people in county jails.

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