Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Prisoners denied access to Facebook
BATON ROUGE The Senate voted 31-1 on Tuesday to prohibit state prison inmates from accessing computer based social networking sites or setting up email accounts and web pages.
Senate Bill 182 by Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, now goes to a House committee that has approved legislation prohibiting sex offenders who are on probation or parole from using sites like Facebook and MySpace.
The lone vote against Thompson's bill came from Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, who argued that the bill isn't needed.
She said prison officials have complained that they need the measure to help them police contraband like cell phones or other electronic devices that might be smuggled into prison.
"Do your jobs," Peterson said of prison officials. "This is ridiculous. Why are we spending all this money on prisons if they can't keep drugs and cell phones out of prison? ... We continue to give these people (prison officials) passes."
Thompson said the bill is designed as a "victims' right bill" to keep inmates from harassing witnesses who testified against them or their victims.
"It is a security issue," he said.
The bill says inmates convicted of having access to an illegal social networking site could face up to 30 additional days in prison, a maximum $500 fine or both.
Earlier, the House voted 90-0 for House Bill 12 by Rep. Ricky Templet, R-Gretna, that would outlaw so-called "bath salts" that are used as drugs.
Templet's bill flew out of the House and now goes to a Senate committee for a hearing.
Besides banning the sale, manufacture or possession of the substances with exotic names like "White Dove" or "White Lady," Templet said his bill also rewrites a law passed last year that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana.
Templet said after lawmakers adjourned last year thinking they had outlawed the chemically laced herbs that provide a marijuana like effect, manufacturers of the substances came up with a different formulation for the synthetic ingredients to avoid prosecution.
Templet said his bill this year is designed to criminalize "entire groups" of chemicals that could be used to make the pseudo-marijuana and the bath salts.
Templet said the penalties for making, possessing or selling the bath salts would be the same as making, possessing or selling cocaine and other dangerous drugs.
Those penalties vary based on the amount involved and the number of previous convictions the person has.