ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Some inmates in New Mexico Corrections Department Custody could be disciplined if they don't remove their profiles posted on an online pen-pal website.
"Any site that's a social media is against the rules. We don't allow that 'cause as I said again it's about public safety," said NM Corrections Deputy Secretary of Operations Joe Booker.
The website is WriteAPrisoner.com. It was started in October 2000.
The president and owner of the site, Adam Lovell, said it was created as a way to connect pen-pals with prisoners so they can trade letters. The site also provides educational tools and legal aide help.
An inmate can either have someone post a profile for them, or they can submit a profile by mail which is then posted by the site since most inmates are not allowed to get on the Internet.
For $40 a year, the inmate's profile includes a description, a photo, the person's crime and where the inmate is serving his or her time so people can write to them.
"What we find through this is that inmates who have positive contact with the outside world are much less likely to re-offend, they're less likely to commit more criminal acts while incarcerated, less likely to return to substance abuse," Lovell said during a phone interview.
A handful of New Mexico Inmates are now taking advantage of the service, however, for those in state correction department facilities the site is supposed to be off limits.
"Those types of technologies are not secure and we want to make sure that they're not preying on people in the community," Booker said.
The Deputy Secretary told News 13 even though the inmates themselves are not accessing this site, an inmate's presence on a site like this is against the rules.
He said they do encourage communication, but they want it to be genuine relationships with family and friends who were in the inmates' lives before they got locked up and who will be there to help them reintegrate into society when they get out.
"Ninety-seven percent of these inmates are going back to the community, so we try and we work on trying to keep that relationship positive," said Booker.
Lovell said he agrees that various corrections department's concerns over social media access are valid.
"When you look at sites like Facebook that actually allow an inmate access, direct access to the outside world and unregulated, I think that that is risky," he said.
However, he said because of the way hit site is set up, the services do not threaten prison or anyone else's security.
Lovell said even if a prisoner is somehow able to get online, they don't have access to anyone's information, adding that the company has a pretty good track record.
"We've never had an inmate come out and hurt anyone. We've never had an inmate come out and track somebody down against their will. We've never had a report of anything like that ever happening," said Lovell.
Booker said the bottom line is it's against the rules and inmates know that, adding that they have already started interviewing those who have profiles on the site and are asking them to remove them.
"If they don't take them down, then there's disciplinary action that can occur," Booker said.
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