For people convicted of serious crimes, long prison sentences can equal a long time out of the world. Once they've paid their debt to society, felons can report feeling disconnected from their lives, their families and the world they left behind.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter keeps us connected to our friends, family and even complete strangers anywhere we are on Earth. Inmates in maximum security prisons don't have direct access to the Internet.
So how can people living behind bars participate in a flourishing social network? It's all thanks to a non-profit called Live From Lockdown. It's been referred to as the "Facebook for Felons."
Live From Lockdown isn't a charity for prisoners; it's actually at its core an anti-gang initiative. It lets former gang members in maximum security prisons communicate an important message to at-risk youth.
The idea behind Live From Lockdown is to give inmates an outlet to communicate with the outside world - but also give kids who might join gangs a look inside the hard life that awaits them if they continue down the path they're on.
According to Buzzfeed, this is how the system works:
The site is run entirely by [Kamaal] Bennett, a 35-year-old New Jersey nonprofit executive. It’s a part-time job but a painstaking process: Bennett receives profile information and blog entries via traditional mail and CorrLinks, the Federal Bureau of Prison’s proprietary email system, then inputs them manually to the site. Bennett says he tries to add at least one new post a day; he also prints outs and mails the profiles and as many of the posts and comments as he can to the inmates, who have no other way of seeing them. In that sense, it’s an online social network that seems to exist (for the ones who rely on it most) primarily offline.
The posts aren't sanitized. In fact, one post may have landed an inmate back in solitary after it detailed a story of possible abuse by guards:
When done searching my last boot, he removes the insole of my shoe, then throws my boot in a different direction and commands me to pick them up. This was in no way a possibility for me, as I am nobody’s “lil boy”. My refusal landed me in the hole. As you can see I’m out, but I ask- Do you honestly believe the blatant disrespect was warranted? Absolutely not! But we prisoners have nobody to turn to. We can only suck it up and move on, or allow the mental games to be played and find ourselves in more of a situation. This is in no way to say that what transpired at USP Canaan in Pennsylvania and resulted in the death of a corrections officer and Bureau of Prisons employee on Monday was justified. I’m just saying some of these corrections officers lack serious professional skills.
What do you think? Is Live From Lockdown a good way to deter kids from joining gangs? Let me know in the comments section.