Feds and Tennessee Officials Investigate Prisoners Using Facebook
by David Reutter
The Bureau of Prisons is investigating two prisoners who were discovered using Facebook to “broadcast live” from a federal facility in Atlanta, where they are serving time on drug and weapons charges. The probe was initiated following a November 19, 2014 investigative news report by WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville.
“Hey, what’s up everybody! It’s your boy Stackhouse Dadon, reporting live from the federal penitentiary,” said one prisoner in a video posted on Facebook.
“You all stay tuned, man. We’ll keep you updated on what’s going on in this prison,” the other prisoner stated.
The WSMV news report identified the pair as Cameron Braswell and Rex Whitlock, both from Tennessee. The videos and status updates posted on Facebook also showed off the pair’s tattoos and shoes.
“Federal inmates are not authorized to use any equipment that would allow for creating videos of themselves inside our prisons,” a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said in a statement. “We immediately conduct investigations into these matters.” The statement added that Braswell and Whitlock could face administrative sanctions and possible federal prosecution stemming from their online profiles. Authorities have also contacted Facebook.
Braswell and Whitlock made no secret of using social media to keep in contact with the outside world.
“I look at everybody’s comments. Y’all love me,” Braswell bragged in one video. “So keep on commenting, sending friend requests. You already know that I’m gonna accept it, man.”
The pair of prisoners even complained when they had problems with their contraband cell phone used to access the Internet: “We having some technical difficulties with the video. We don’t know how to work these phones. All these buttons and apps.”
The WSMV report was the station’s second concerning the presence of illicit Internet access by prisoners. The first report exposed the rampant use of social media in Tennessee state prisons, finding more than 100 prisoners with Facebook pages, many with photos of prison life. In the aftermath of that 2013 report, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) launched an investigation which resulted in shakedowns that led to the confiscation of 53 cell phones, drugs and a deadly weapon. The TDOC also disciplined 70 prisoners.
The Facebook postings showed prisoners partying and flaunting drugs and cash; one video recorded prisoners burning a shirt in their cell. Brandon White was displayed holding $200 in cash and a cell phone, while fellow prisoner Rivera Peoples was seen showing off his iPhone.
In another video, an unidentified prisoner asked how much money Peoples had made while in prison. “I’m a thousand, definitely a thousand,” he replied. In a different video, Peoples summed up his opinion of prison life: “Between me and you, this shit ain’t half bad.”
Perhaps the most outrageous video showed prisoner Martez Wright with his stash of marijuana, which he called “loud.”
“Everybody in here on the stupid loud, we all hungry,” Wright said as he showed off a hoard of junk food and snacks. “We’re hungry. About to eat a motherfucking feast, we’ve got scrumptious items we eat on a daily basis.”
Another prisoner, Ivan Moreno, posted pictures of himself playing a guitar in his cell.
The WSMV report also discovered one instance of prisoners communicating with each other while housed in different prisons.
Victims were outraged.
“That’s not punishment. That’s not any kind of punishment. It’s just like being out on the outside. It’s still freedom for them,” said Linda Wright, whose son was killed by White. “We can never communicate again, and he [White] has access to be able to communicate with the outside world. A menace to society has use of social media, and that’s just wrong.”
“Anyone who sees those videos, they’re going to be sickened by it. They’re going to be angry,” remarked Verna Wyatt, executive director of Tennessee Voices for Victims. “I guarantee you, when the commissioner sees this, there’s going to be a reckoning, and there should be.”
TDOC Assistant Commissioner Tony Parker acknowledged that the Facebook postings and videos showed prisoners having a “pretty good time.”
“I don’t like it, but it’s a problem we face every day,” he said.
“How can a guy set a shirt on fire without your correctional officers not knowing?” asked WSMV investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.
“You have one officer and 128 inmates in a housing unit,” Parker replied. “It appears that they took something and covered the door.”
“Every correctional facility struggles with contraband. It’s not something I’m proud of but it’s the reality,” he added. “It’s not an issue of enough correctional officers; it’s an issue of a nationwide problem with cell phones and the struggle to stay on top of it.”
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login