Inmate Facebook posts rankle Corrections official

prison wire


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Prison inmates are not allowed on the Internet, so a series of Facebook posts by two convicted murderers have state Corrections Department officials asking questions.

Joseph Cruz is serving life in prison in Santa Fe for stabbing a man over drugs in Raton in 2005. Michael Salazar was convicted of second degree murder for the same crime and is set to be released in 2019.

The two men have another thing in common: Facebook accounts.

They have shared photos, chatted up friends and posted their thoughts of the day on the social networking website.

Cruz’s account is quite active. On Feb. 28, a Facebook friend posted “hi.” Cruz responded back “hi” one minute later. His friend posted “how are u,” to which Chavez, seconds later answered “bored.”

Jerry Roark, New Mexico Corrections Department director of adult prisons, said both men are violating prison policy.

“Inmates are to have no access to the Internet,” he said.

But there is a chance Cruz and Salazar were not posting at all. Their friends or family may be representing themselves as the inmates. Roark says that’s not allowed either — with or without the inmate’s permission.

“First, it’s deceptive because they aren’t the inmate. Secondly, they could speak on behalf — for the inmate — reach out to crime victims, to gang members, those kinds of things,” Roark said.

The Corrections Department was criticized last summer for inmate Eric Aldaz’s Facebook account. Aldaz didn’t follow orders to have his family take down his account, which family members were maintaining. For that and for allegedly threatening an officer, he was sent to solitary confinement for 90 days.

Civil rights attorney Matthew Coyte said an inmate can not be punished for what his family may do.

“This happens in jails and prisons, you get to control people through controlling their families, and that’s not acceptable,” he said. “There’s always a balance you have in a prison or a jail to keep security versus trampling people’s rights.”

Corrections officials will contact Facebook about Cruz’s and Salazar’s accounts, and they will be taken down. They will not be punished unless investigators find they had an illegal electronic device behind bars.

The two inmates advertised a lot of their art they were selling. The Corrections Department said it has a “trades and craftsman fair” that sells inmates’ art. The money raised goes to victims, the offender’s family and the inmate’s saving account. Money also goes toward programs to help other inmates.

Alex Tomlin, the department’s spokeswoman, says they will let the two inmates know about the program to possibly sell their art.

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