Three Facebook pages featuring South Carolina prison inmates have disappeared from the website after being featured in a Post and Courier Watchdog story on Sunday.
Facebook confirmed Tuesday that it disabled the profile page of Lee Correctional Institute inmate Quincy Howard for violating the website's rules. Howard, serving a 30-year sentence for killing a man in Marion County three years ago, had accumulated more than 450 "friends" by the time his page was yanked.
Prison officials confiscated a cell phone from his quarters earlier this month, and someone else claimed to be updating Howard's page last week. That admission apparently spelled the end for Howard's page, because Facebook doesn't allow people on the outside to update a prisoner's profile on their behalf.
Also vanishing from Facebook were Jabez Batiste, a 24-year-old Charleston man serving 40 years for two murders in 2007, and Jarod Wayne Tapp, serving a life sentence for the 2003 rape and murder of a College of Charleston graduate.
Facebook did not acknowledge taking any action against those inmates.
Corrections Department spokesman Josh Gelinas said the prisons where the men are housed were alerted to the presence of the Facebook pages so officials there could search their cells for possible cell phones. It was unclear Tuesday whether those searches had been conducted or if anything was found.
Authorities around the country have become increasingly concerned about the potential for inmates to use social media and modern technology to taunt victims and carry on criminal activities from behind prison walls. Cell phones and smart phones are banned in prisons across the nation, but they are routinely smuggled in, giving inmates ready access to the outside world.
Some 2,000 phones were seized in South Carolina prisons last year.
Terry Bittner is director of security products for ITT, which manufacturers a cell phone detection system for prisons. He said smart phones are particularly dangerous inside prisons because they place myriad tools at an inmate's disposal to conduct crimes, from texting to video and mapping services.
"That's why smart phones are such a lethal threat," he said. "It's not just a voice communication device, but a complete communications center.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.
Inmate has own Facebook account: Contraband phones a concern to officials, published 01/23/11