Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Inmates find ways to go online

Filed under
Web

Keith Maydak's jail cells are roomier than most. Must be all that cyberspace. State and federal prisons don't let inmates use Internet computers behind bars - and the Allegheny County Jail doesn't either. Yet Maydak has answered a reporter's e-mails from the Pittsburgh jail, and later an Ohio lockup, while he awaits sentencing for violating probation on a 900-number phone scam that cost AT&T $550,000 dollars.

Thousands of other inmates access the Internet indirectly using inmate telephone and mail privileges and a network of family, friends or activists. Once on the Web, they enlist celebrities like Susan Sarandon to plead their case, pillory the prosecutors who imprisoned them, or simply find pen pals.

Maydak, 34, told The Associated Press he uses a network of toll-free phone numbers and friends to access the Internet for him. He was inspired as a teen by the 1983 movie "War Games" in which nuclear war almost results when a teenager hacks into a military computer.

And that's precisely why state and federal prisons keep inmates away from the Internet, said Joe Weedon, a spokesman for the American Correctional Association in Lanham, Md. "There were a few jurisdictions that allowed it on a limited basis, but they ran into problems with offenders contacting their victims or inmates running scams of some sort."

Federal appellate courts have yet to hear a major case on inmates rights to access the Internet but victims' advocates promise to fight them.

"Your rights are very limited when you go to prison and certainly the right to communicate with people on the Internet is one of them," said Michael Rushford, of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation."

Arizona inmates successfully challenged a state law that prohibited helping inmates access the Internet. The law was passed after a murder victim's family complained about the killer's Internet pen pal ad.

But a federal district judge struck down the law in 2003, saying it was one thing to stop inmates from using the Internet in jail - but quite another to hinder their access to it through intermediaries.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued in that case on behalf of the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which publishes Web sites for about 500 U.S. death row inmates, and pen pal solicitations for about 700 more, said co-founder Tracy Lamourie.

"They're sentenced to death, they're not sentenced to silence," Lamourie said. "Even if just one was (innocent), how can we silence someone who's going to be killed in our name?"
Lamourie's group maintained a Web site for Juan Melendez, 53, who spent 18 years on Florida's death row before he was found to be wrongfully convicted three years ago.

Lamourie and her partner pay for envelopes, stationery and postage out of pocket or with donations that trickle in. The server space for the Web pages is donated by a European death penalty opponent.

"I try to understand how alarming it would be for a victims' family to see the smiling face of an inmate who has caused some great harm to a family on the World Wide Web looking for women to write to him," said Donna Hamm of Middle Ground Prison Reform Inc. "But it's difficult to imagine how that infringes on a free world person's right to put something on the Internet."

Hamm, a retired judge, co-founded the group with her husband, James, a convicted murderer she met while touring a prison tour in the 1980s. His sentence has since been commuted.

These days, jails and prisons are trying to take advantage of Internet and computer technology without letting inmates abuse it.

Earlier this year, the Arkansas Board of Corrections approved an Internet banking system to route money to inmate commissary accounts. Relatives can mail money orders to a centralized processing center for deposit by Internet into inmate accounts. Inmates can access the money instantly at prison commissaries across the state.

Alabama prison officials, meanwhile, are installing law library computers to give inmates better access to court rulings, but no Internet or e-mail access.

Still, such outreach programs sometimes backfire.
An inmate at the Weld County (Colo.) Jail in Greeley has been charged with using jail library computers to access county employees' payroll and personal information. Authorities say faulty firewalls were to blame. The inmate even sent an e-mail, although authorities say they don't believe he shared the employee information or did anything illegal with it.

And in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio - not his inmates - is fighting for the right to use the Internet to show the public live video from inside his lockups. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Arpaio's use of cameras and the Internet to webcast video of prisoners being booked was unduly humiliating. Arpaio is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Arpaio has made national headlines for dressing up inmates in striped uniforms and making them work on chain gangs. He says the Web cameras served two purposes.

"We had a guy that died in the restraint chair and the case settled for $8 million, even though my officers were cleared, they did nothing wrong. So I said, 'OK, I'm going to let the world be my jury' ... let the world see how my officers conduct themselves with these drunks and psychos that come in," Arpaio said.

"The other reason is maybe it will be a deterrent. The johns can all wave to their wives when they're picked up for prostitution and say, 'Hi honey! I'm in jail.' And the drunk drivers can wave to their employers."

JOE MANDAK
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

More in Tux Machines

Linux Lite

Linux Lite is a beginner-friendly Linux distribution that is based on the well known Ubuntu LTS and targeted at Windows users. Its mission is to provide a complete set of applications to support users' everyday computing needs, including a complete office suite, media players and other essential applications. Read more

today's leftovers

  • Effective Microservices Architecture with Event-Driven Design
    There’s no doubt, in the IT world, microservices are sexy. But just because you find something cool and attractive doesn’t mean it’s good for you. And it doesn’t mean you know how to use it properly.
  • Cloud Foundry Makes its Mark on the Enterprise
    "Proprietary will have to either get on board or be left in the dust."
  • Tumbleweed Review of the week 2017/25
    With the pace of Tumbleweed having resumed to ‘almost daily snapshots’ I will to the review again weekly instead of bi-weekly. It’s just easier to remember what big updates came in like this. This week I will cover the 6 snapshots 0616,0617,0618,0619,0620 and 0622 (again, 0622 just passed openQA and you will get it shortly on the mirror). There was also a 0621 tested, but discarded by openQA.
  • S10E16 – Enthusiastic Woozy Route
    It’s Season Ten Episode Sixteen of the Ubuntu Podcast! Alan Pope, Mark Johnson, Martin Wimpress and Joey Sneddon are connected and speaking to your brain.
  • My Meetup Slides: Deploy and Manage Kubernetes Clusters on Ubuntu in the Oracle Cloud
  •  
  • MinnowBoard 3 will offer Apollo Lake, triple M.2s, and Raspberry Pi expansion
    Minnowboard.org is prepping an open spec “MinnowBoard 3” SBC with a quad-core Apollo Lake, 4GB LPDDR4, 8GB eMMC, 3x M.2 sockets, and an RPi connector. The Intel-backed Minnowboard.org project has posted preliminary specs for an open-spec MinnowBoard 3 model to follow the recently shipped MinnowBoard Turbo Quad. Due to ship in the fall, the community-backed MinnowBoard 3 stands out with a 14nm Apollo Lake Atom, three M.2 sockets, and an “RPI” adapter. The only RPI we know of is Raspberry Pi, or more specifically, its much copied 40-pin expansion connector.
  • Open source social robot kit runs on Raspberry Pi and Arduino
    Thecorpora’s Scratch-ready “Q.bo One” robot is based on the RPi 3 and Arduino, and offers stereo cams, mics, a speaker, and visual and language recognition. In 2010, robotics developer Francisco Paz and his Barcelona-based Thecorpora startup introduced the first Qbo “Cue-be-oh” robot as an open source proof-of-concept and research project for exploring AI capabilities in multi-sensory, interactive robots. Now, after a preview in February at Mobile World Congress, Thecorpora has gone to Indiegogo to launch the first mass produced version of the social robot in partnership with Arrow.

Desktop: Popcorn Linux, Purism, Distro Hopping, System76, and 2017 Linux Laptop Survey

  • Popcorn Linux OS gives processors a common language
    Thanks to a new operating system called Popcorn Linux, the Navy may be able to speed systems development and cut maintenance. Developed by engineering researchers at Virginia Tech with support from the Office of Naval Research,  Popcorn Linux can compile different programming languages into a common format. The operating system takes generic coding language and translates it into multiple specialized program languages. Then it determines what pieces of the code are needed to perform particular tasks and transfers these instruction “kernels” (the “popcorn” part) to the appropriate function, ONR officials said. Chips for video systems might be programmed in one language and those for networking functions in another. These multicore processors improve computing speed, but they also force programmers to design or upgrade applications based on what programs run on which processors. That means complex systems like battlespace awareness and artificial intelligence that require specialized processors must be manually adjusted so components can interact with each other.
  • Purism's Security Focused Librem Laptops Go Mainstream as GA Begins, with $2.5M in Total Project Funding and 35 Percent Average Monthly Growth
  • Now it’s easier to buy Purism’s Linux laptops
    After running a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 to raise money for a laptop that runs free and open source software, Purism has been able to ship a limited number of 13 and 15 inch laptops, and the corporation is taking pre-orders for a 2-in-1 tablet.
  • Are You a Distro Hopper?
    Is distro hopping a dying sport or have I just gotten too old? When I first started to use Linux I was the quintessential cliche distro hopper. I swapped and switched flavor of Linux seemingly every other day, certain that at some point I’d find the right fit and stop, content with at whatever combination of distro base and desktop environment I’d hit upon.
  • System76 Continues Working On GNOME Improvements For Future Ubuntu
    System76 continues working on improvements to the GNOME stack as part of their transition in-step to using it over Unity 7, in line with Canonical's decision to switch Ubuntu over to GNOME and abandon their grand Unity 8 ambitions.
  • 2017 Linux Laptop Survey
    It has been a few years since last running any Linux hardware surveys on Phoronix, as overall the ecosystem has rather matured nicely while of course there are still notable improvements to be had in the areas of GPUs and laptops. (Additionally, OpenBenchmarking.org provides a plethora of analytic capabilities when not seeking to collect subjective data / opinions.) But now we are hosting the 2017 Linux Laptop Survey to hopefully further improvements in this area.

Software and GNOME: Pass, Popcorn Time, Nixnote2, Grive, Curlew, and GtkActionMuxer

  • Pass – A Simple command-line Password Manager for Linux
    Keep tracking the password is one of the big challenge to everyone now a days since we has multiple password like email, bank, social media, online portal, and ftp, etc.,. Password managers are become very famous due to the demand and usage. In Linux so many alternatives are available, GUI based and CLI based. Today we are going to discuss about CLI based password manager called pass.
  • Popcorn Time Watch Movies and TV Shows On Linux
    ​Watching your favorite TV shows and movies series is what you all guys do every day. Flash, Iron Fist or Moana and many more awesome movies and tv shows that we love to watch. The problems come when you are traveling. Many of your shows or movies are restricted to a particular region and cannot be accessed when you are traveling or want to just quickly watch that awesome flash punch from an episode of 1 month old.
  • Nixnote2 – A Clone of Evernote for Linux
    When I created a list of Alternative Evernote Clients for Linux, the formerly known NeverNote was on the list as NixNote since it hadn’t gained a “2” to its title yet. It has been 4 months since and I decided to give the app its own review for you guys. Without further ado, let’s get to it. NixNote2 (also called NixNote) is an unofficial client of Evernote for Linux. It possesses most of the features Evernote provides including the use of Notebooks, tags, themes, emails, and multiple accounts.
  • Grive – A Dockerized Google Drive Client for Linux
    Not too long ago I reviewed Grive2 as an alternative Google Drive client for Linux. Today, I’ll introduce you to Grive, a Docker implementation for the Google Drive client, Grive2. Docker (if you don’t already know what it is), is a tool designed to benefit both system admins and developers thanks to its use of containers. Docker’s containers provide a way for developers to create and distribute their apps using containers.
  • Curlew is a GTK Media Converter for the GNOME desktop
    There are plenty of free multimedia converters for Ubuntu available, with command-line champ FFmpeg arguably the most powerful of them all. But this power comes with a complexity. Using FFMpeg to convert media through the command line can be intimidating and arcane. Which is why FFMpeg frontends are popular.
  • Dazzle spotlight – Multi Paned and Action Muxing
    The way the GtkActionMuxer works is by following the widget hierarchy to resolve GActions. Since the HeaderBar is a sibling to the content area (and not a direct ancestor) you cannot activate those actions. It would be nice for the muxer to gain more complex support, but until then… Dazzle.