Tag Archive: surveillance

Hundreds of South Carolina Inmates Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook

 In the South Carolina prison system, accessing Facebook is an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking.

Back in 2012, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) made “Creating and/or Assisting With A Social Networking Site” a Level 1 offense [PDF], a category reserved for the most violent violations of prison conduct policies. It’s one of the most common Level 1 offense charges brought against inmates, many of whom, like most social network users, want to remain in contact with friends and family in the outside world and keep up on current events. Some inmates ask their families to access their online accounts for them, while many access the Internet themselves through a contraband cell phone (possession of which is yet another Level 1 offense).

Through a request under South Carolina’s Freedom of Information Act, EFF found that, over the last three years, prison officials have brought more than 400 disciplinary cases for “social networking”—almost always for using Facebook. The offenses come with heavy penalties, such as years in solitary confinement and deprivation of virtually all privileges, including visitation and telephone access. In 16 cases, inmates were sentenced to more than a decade in what’s called disciplinary detention, with at least one inmate receiving more than 37 years in isolation.

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Report shows extent of police surveillance in North Carolina

surveillanceFrom Indy Week

More than 70 North Carolina law enforcement agencies are using automatic license plate readers, cell phone location trackers and surveillance cameras to keep an eye, and a mass of data, on ordinary citizens. And soon, they could be able to add unmanned drones to that list.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) uncovered a wealth of information about surveillance technologies that police and sheriff’s departments use in jurisdictions across the state, through a series of public records requests. Thursday morning, ACLU-NC policy director Sarah Preston and staff attorney Nathan Wessler joined former state Senator and criminal defense attorney Thom Goolsby to host a legislative briefing on privacy and surveillance issues.

While surveillance technology is not new, its use by law enforcement is becoming more widespread in the digital age, and the laws regulating its use have fallen far behind. The federal statute that governs warrantless access to cell phone and email records, for example, has not been updated since 1986. Now, regulating surveillance technology is falling to the states, and the ACLU-NC is pushing for legislation that protects the Fourth Amendment, by requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before collecting certain kinds of digital information on citizens. (more…)

Your Home Is Your Prison

homeprisonFrom Truth Out/By Maya Schenwar

On January 27th, domestic violence survivor Marissa Alexander will walk out of Florida’s Duval County jail — but she won’t be free.

Alexander, whose case has gained some notoriety, endured three years of jail time and a year of house arrest while fighting off a prison sentence that would have seen her incarcerated for the rest of her life — all for firing a warning shot that injured no one to fend off her abusive husband. Like many black women before her, Alexander was framed as a perpetrator in a clear case of self-defense. In November, as her trial date drew close, Alexander accepted a plea deal that will likely give her credit for time served, requiring her to spend “just” 65 more days in jail. Media coverage of the development suggested that Alexander would soon have her “freedom,” that she would be “coming home.”

Many accounts of the plea deal, however, missed what Alexander will be coming home to: she’ll return to “home detention” — house arrest — for two years.

In other words, an electronic monitor, secured around her ankle at all times, will track her every movement. Alexander will also be paying $105 per week to the state in monitoring fees, as is the custom in Florida and more than a dozen other states.

Such a situation is certainly preferable to being caged in a prison cell. However, does Alexander’s release — and that of others in her shoes — mean freedom? In reality, an ever-growing number of cages are proliferating around us, even if they assume forms that look nothing like our standard idea of a cage.

As mass incarceration is falling out of fashion — it’s been denounced by figures across the political spectrum from Eric Holder to Newt Gingrich — a whole slate of “alternatives to incarceration” has arisen. From electronic monitoring and debilitating forms of probation to mandatory drug testing and the sort of “predictive policing” that turns communities of color into open-air prisons, these alternatives are regularly presented as necessary “reforms” for a broken system.

It’s worth remembering, however, that when the modern prison emerged in the late eighteenth century, it, too, was promoted as a “reform,” a positive replacement for corporal or capital punishment. Early prison reformers — many of them Quakers bent on repentance and redemption — suggested that cutting people off from the rest of the world would bring them closer to God. (The word “penitentiary” comes, of course, from “penitence.”)

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Beyond Whistleblowing

edFrom Crimethinc.

Citizenfour is just the latest expression of public fascination with the figure of the whistleblower. Jesselyn Radack, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden—the whistleblower defects from within the halls of power to inform us about how power is being misused, delivering forbidden information to the people like the holy fire of Prometheus.

But can the whistleblower save us? Is whistleblowing enough? What limitations are coded into a strategy of social change based around whistleblowing, and what would it take to go beyond them?

Certainly, whistleblowers look good compared to the institutions they expose. Faith in authorities of all stripes is at an all-time low, and for good reason. In a news clip in Citizenfour, we see Obama claim to have ordered an inquiry into the NSA before Snowden’s revelations surfaced, petulantly implying that he was Snowden before Snowden. The President calls cynically for a “fact-based” discussion—when the only useful source of facts has been the illegal leaks of the man he is decrying. It is difficult to imagine a starker contrast between courage and cynicism.

Yet it’s one thing to unmask tyrants—it’s another thing to depose them. (more…)