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Prisoners Use Social Networking Sites to Harass Victims

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One purpose of putting criminals in jail is to offer peace to the victims of heinous crimes. With the knowledge that they are safe, victims can begin to put the pieces of their lives back together and move on from darker days. However, social networking sites are offering inmates the access to their victims that they wouldn't have without websites like Facebook or MySpace.

For example, Lisa Gesik avoids logging onto her Facebook account these days for fear that she'll receive a message from her ex-husband, who is convicted of kidnapping her and her daughter. Unfortunately, police cannot prove that it's Gesik's ex-husband who is sending the messages, although his profile features him standing in front of the prison gates wearing his prison blues and sunglasses with his arms crossed over his chest. Even if it isn't Gesik's ex-husband sending the messages, the unwanted contact has prompted her to consider going back into hiding with her daughter to avoid another scary ordeal.

With an increasing number of inmates with access to smartphones, the use of social networking sites to send messages to victims or accusers, or to intimidate witnesses, is becoming more common. Prison officials that monitor prisoners' use of social networking sites said that they've found instances of unwanted sexual advances and taunting of victims. They say that the law cannot catch up with the rapidly changing technology and that it's hard for them to know who is sending the messages and that the consequence are very rarely serious.

But some lawmakers have started to take notice–for example, California legislators recently approved legislation that would allow up to six months in jail for corrections employees or visitors who bring cell phones to inmates, and 180 days off of early-release credits for inmates caught with cell phones. Additionally, Oregon lawmakers banned domestic abusers from contacting their victims from behind bars.