State drops punishment for prisoner with Facebook

CLAYTON, N.M. (KRQE) – A billion people have Facebook accounts, but one page in particular caught News 13′s attention a few months ago.

It belonged to a prison inmate and that’s against the rules.

After we ran our story, the state wanted to put Eric Aldaz in solitary for 90 days for disobeying orders that he was to contact his family, who maintained the Facebook profile for him, to shut the page down.

Then civil rights groups got involved.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation says Aldaz actually violated an obscure rule that prohibits inmates from accessing the internet through third parties.

They say the policy is written so broadly that it could infringe on the free speech rights of friends and family.

“The rule could also pose a chilling effect for anyone who would like to post information online about an inmate, for fear that the prison may believe the inmate had some control over the speech,” said Dave Maass, investigative researcher for EFF.

The ACLU joined EFF in writing a letter to the Department of Corrections with their concerns.

“We are toying with core constitutional issues here,” said Peter Simonson, ACLU New Mexico Executive Director.

Simonson says the 90 day sanction is excessive and raises questions about how New Mexico prisons continue to use solitary confinement as discipline.

“It’s our feeling that it should only apply in very limited circumstances to inmates who have committed some violent offense inside the facility and that you should never use that type of punishment to 30 days,” Simonson said.

The state reviewed Aldaz’s 90 day sanction for the Facebook fight and decided to throw it out, saying the investigation was “incomplete.”

The Department of Corrections says it’s reviewing their internet policy.

They also said they’re continuing to review their use of solitary confinement as discipline.

Despite the Facebook-related discipline being thrown out, Aldaz is now spending two months in solitary for infractions that include possessing tattoo equipment.

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