Prison Employees Say The Man (i.e., TDCJ) Is Monitoring Their Facebook Friends Lists
Some employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice are accusing wardens of disciplining, and in some cases firing, them for having Facebook friends with criminal records.
Is TDCJ monitoring employees' Facebook habits?
Duane Stuart, who runs a private TDCJ employee forum, thebackgate.org, tells Hair Balls that wardens regularly inspect employees' profiles, asking employees for their passwords if their profiles are set to private.
Stuart and Lance Lowry, a representative of the employees' union, believe TDCJ is using Facebook to intimidate employees who have been critical of it in the past.
In an e-mail to Senator John Whitmire, chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Lowry accuses TDCJ officials of censoring "employee organizing activities" and "prohibiting them from networking with one another on Facebook" and other social media.
"The agency has terminated several employees for Facebook activities, under the [excuse] they are jeopardizing the security of the institution," Lowry claims in the e-mail, sent Tuesday.
Department spokesman Jason Clark told Hair Balls that officials are not asking for passwords, and are not even asking employees to disclose any online friendships with former offenders or parolees.
"I'm not certain where that's coming from..." he tells Hair Balls. He did say that officials have asked employees to be more selective in choosing Facebook friends.
"Sometimes those relationships, whether they be on purpose or inadvertently, can jeopardize -- or has the potential to jeopardize -- the security of the agency, or compromise the effectiveness of the employee," he says.
But Stuart tells Hair Balls in an e-mail that he witnessed a warden monitor an employee's Facebook profile, "looking for information on possible violations." He claims that wardens "browse the open accounts looking at pictures, an employee's friends list or any indication of the employee doing drugs, etc., or being involved in criminal acts. If they cannot get in due to you having your account password protected, they will ask you for it. If you waiver on handing it over and they feel you are hiding something, they will then demand it."
Failure to comply will result in disciplinary actions, Stuart claims.
He says employees are also being disciplined for having Facebook friends with criminal records they weren't even aware of.
"We see upwards of 25-30 of these e-mails on a daily basis," he writes.
He claims this also includes friends of friends, explaining that one employee's wife (who was on his friends list) had a friend who was once incarcerated in TDCJ. (In that case, Stuart claims, the employee only received a scolding.)
Many employees are now posting disclaimers, asking any friends with TDCJ records to remove themselves. But if a friend doesn't abide, the employee is still on the hook, Stuart says. Stuart also says TDCJ's media office ignored his request, two weeks ago, for a statement on the social media issue.