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Is 'Check it out, bro, I'm in prison!' an appropriate Facebook status update?

Prisoners aren't allowed smart phones, but that doesn't keep at least a few enterprising inmates from using Facebook and Twitter. South Carolina is considering a ban on prison Facebook updates.

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An undated picture of Islam Dunn’s Facebook page. Dunn is a prisoner in South Carolina who used a contraband cellphone to update his Facebook status and communicate with friends and family from prison.

AP

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A first-of-its-kind "Facebook felon" bill, now working its way through the South Carolina legislature, would impose a $500 fine and as many as 30 more days in jail for any prisoner caught creating or using a Facebook or Twitter account.

In some jails nationwide, inmates are managing to get their hands on smart phones and surreptitiously tap out pithy updates, send messages to the outside world, and even post photos after lights-out.

It is a new wrinkle on the common problem of contraband cellphones in prison, which have been used to order outside associates around, intimidate potential witnesses, and even order gangland hits. States prison systems from Georgia to California have cracked down on contraband cellphones, with some also considering ways to jam wireless communications inside prisons.

For South Carolina state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a law-and-order Democrat from Charleston, the use of social media by prisoners is "a slap in the face" to both society and to victims. But criminalizing cell block use of social media could infringe on First Amendment rights, some experts say. Moreover, they say, the law could obscure the real problem now being brought to light in prisons: an unchecked flow of contraband, including drugs and cellphones.

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