A Texas prison officer who lost his job after becoming friends with an inmate on Facebook has been effectively reinstated to his position, according to the Associated Press. After state prison officials investigated the matter, they determined that the officer’s relationship with the inmate did not pose any immediate security risks. As a result, he will now be allowed to return to work.
The Huntsville corrections officer was fired in May for “friending” one of his high school acquaintances through the popular social media site, though he had no idea the man was incarcerated at the time. Regardless, his employers thought befriending an inmate was a violation of policy, not to mention a huge security risk.
The American-Statesman reports that, after careful consideration, prison guards and inmates are now allowed to become friends on Facebook as the relationship doesn’t pose any serious threats to security.
“There’s almost no way a correctional officer — or anyone else for that matter — can tell if any one of their Facebook friends are convicts, parolees or ex-convicts,” explained Lance Lowry, who heads up the Huntsville chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “With more than a million people in Texas now incarcerated, on parole or probation, there’s a pretty good chance some of those Facebook friends are or have been in the criminal justice system at one time.”
During their investigation into the prison officer’s Facebook relationship with the inmate, officials discovered that other employees were friends with the same person, including the facility’s prison chief financial officer. What’s more, investigators determined that there was no real way to monitor the 40,000 employees and 154,000 prisoners who use the social networking site on a regular basis.
However, just because these friendships are allowed doesn’t mean they should be pursued.
“I don’t know why anyone in the prison business would want to be on Facebook, with their family photos and everything out there for anyone to see. You’re just asking for trouble, on the job and off,” retired prison guard John Wheeler explained.
Do you think prison officers should be able to “friend” inmates on Facebook?