When we received a tip about an inmate posting on social media from within prison, we had no idea how far reaching the issue still was, especially after WSMV’s statewide investigation that began 4 years prior, and still continues. Today, we continue the series, with Part IV – Friends in High Places. While we expected to find inmates talking to each other on social media, and friends on those accounts, what we did not expect to find was state employees and Tennessee Department of Correction prison guards and third-party contractors as these inmate’s friends on social media. In the world of prison inmates, the most important person in their lives on a daily basis – are the correctional officers guarding them. They make the real-life, everyday choices, that impact everything that happens to an inmate, from when they eat, if they’re let out for recreation time, if they get their cell searched, and so much more – there’s no one else that has such a direct impact on the daily life of an inmate in prison.
- Party in Prison I: T.D.OC. Inmates on Social Media from Prison (Again): Meet Lance Matlock & Brandon Watson
- Party in Prison II: TDOC Inmates with Cellphones, Drugs, Videos & Social Media
- Party in Prison III: Inmate Kortavious Carwell Issues Challenge with Two New Cell Phones
- Party In Prison V: Are 3rd Party (G4S) Guards Providing Phones? Meet Toshana Hamilton
So, why are so many correctional officers / guards friends with prisoners on social media? It could be argued that they were friends prior (which in 1 case was true), however how can an employee of the state’s Department of Correction see posts on social media by an inmate, and not notify anyone. There was no question that the friend was an inmate, with ‘LIVE’ videos posted within the prison, a profile photo clearly identifies him as an inmate in a prison, and the friend request was requested and accepted Wwhile the inmate was behind bars. With all of those factors, we can’t find any logical reason why a state employed correctional officer would be friends with inmates that are posting from within the prison, knowing what a huge problem this has become.
In part V of the Party in Prison series, we will discover what appears to be a clear link between how phones are getting into the states prison systems, and into inmates hands. The results may surprise you – while what we discovered does point to a correctional officer in at least one case – that person is not a state employee, but a 3rd Party contractor. For now, let’s meet Eboni Patterson. Eboni is a correctional officer that is employed directly by the State of Tennessee, which we verified both on her social media profile, and in the state’s employee database. We should note that these screen-shots were taking within the past 7 days, however since the posting of our investigation, and WSMV airing their story, she had since removed some of them from her friends list, perhaps to hid the fact she friended them while working there.
She clearly states her occupation on her Facebook profile:
We were able to verify her employment here:
So, who is she friends with? Let’s take a look:
This represents a small sample of her friends that were were able to identify as currently/formerly incarcerated at a state prison in Tennessee. Some of these inmates are friends with multiple guards, even at multiple locations (some guards transfer, temporary fill in, etc…). It should be noted we did not conduct and exhaustive search, but simply relied on known inmate accounts on social media. There are possibly more that have not yet been identified.
Should inmates be allowed to be friends with state correctional officers on social media? Should state employees have the duty to report them instead of becoming friends with them? We’ll cover that and more in Part V of our investigation, including a particular guard that seems to appear as a friend on inmates social media accounts, almost immediately after they’re opened on a new cell phone. Coincidence? We’ll let you decide, however it’s not an isolated case.