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Alabama bill seeks to criminalize social networking for inmates

A bill passed today by the Alabama House of Representatives seeks to make it illegal for any inmate of the Alabama Department of Corrections to establish or maintain any internet-based social networking website. The bill would also make it a crime for any person to establish such a website on behalf of, or in conjunction with an inmate. The bill is HB258 and is sponsored by Representative Phil Williams of Monrovia, and locally is co-sponsored by Representative Chad Fincher of Semmes.

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The bill reads in part: Section 1. (a) No inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections or city and county jails shall establish or maintain an account on any Internet-based social networking website. The bill goes on to further state: (c) Any inmate or other persons working in conjunction with a state correction's inmate who violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500).

It's that second part that has one Mobile native particularly worried.

Artemesia Stanberry grew up in Mobile and now is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Carolina Central University. She has for the past several years maintained a blog and a Facebook page for her cousin Rodney K. Stanberry, who is currently incarcerated in an Alabama prison for crimes she says he did not commit. The blog, http://freerodneystanberry.com/blog, is hosted at WordPress.com which is by definition a social networking site.

On her own Facebook page Prof. Stanberry writes..."who knows how long it will be before the Alabama legislature will fine me for maintaining this site." "Sec. C should be removed; you can have a strong bill without it. I get the gist of the bill, that isn't my opposition; my opposition is criminalizing people such as myself for having a website."

According to the Alabama Legislature’s website, the bill now having passed the House will be sent on to the Senate Judiciary Committee where the Alabama Senate will take it up.

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