A prisoner relaxing in his cell. A friend from outside prison asked him how he was on Facebook from inside prison.
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
A Channel 4 I-Team investigation reveals more than 100 inmates in Tennessee prisons operating their own Facebook pages, displaying photos and videos of drugs, cash and parties while they are behind bars.
The Facebook posts raise serious questions for the Tennessee Department of Corrections because the inmates aren't supposed to have internet access and cell phones are prohibited in prisons.
The photos and videos show inmates claiming to be using drugs, smoking, hoarding snacks, giving each other tattoos, and in one photograph, burning clothes inside a cell.
"Anyone who sees those videos, they're going to be sickened by it. They're going to be angry," said Verna Wyatt, executive director of Tennessee Voices for Victims, an advocacy group for crime victims.
The Channel 4 I-Team found inmates using Facebook not only to communicate instantly with family and friends, but also to talk to inmates in other prisons.
"I guarantee you, when the commissioner sees this, there's going to be a reckoning. And there should be," Wyatt said.
The Channel 4 I-Team released all our findings to the state department of correction and assistant commissioner Tony Parker, who is charge of security in state prisons.
"These are murderers, rapists, other convicted criminals and they appear to be having a pretty good time in prison," asked chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.
"Again, I don't like it. But it's a problem we face every day," said Parker.
What the Channel 4 I-Team uncovered is like a highlight reel of audacity.
Convicted murderer Rivera Peoples posted pictures and video, showing off the contraband iPhone he somehow got in prison to operate his Facebook page.
In one video an inmate sitting beside Peoples in the prison yard can he heard saying, "I believe I'm smoking better than everybody."
The video shows the inmate asking people how much money Peoples has collected while in prison. Peoples responds, "I'm a thousand, definitely a thousand."
Other inmates show pictures of large amounts of cash as well. One photo shows an inmate showing $200 while in prison and another inmate shared that same photo on his Facebook wall.
In a different video, Peoples shows himself and other criminals in the prison yard during the day.
Peoples can be heard in the video saying that life in prison isn't so tough.
"Between me and you - this s*** ain't half bad," Peoples said.
Other Facebook videos show inmates watching TV, singing and rapping.
Some of the most outrageous videos come from convicted burglar Martez Wright, who operated his Facebook page while in the Shelby County Correctional Center and posted videos of his exploits while in a Memphis jail.
In the video, he shows what he claims to be marijuana.
Then Wright talked about the side effects of smoking "loud," which is a slang term for marijuana.
"Everybody in here on the stupid loud. We all hungry," Wright said.
In the video, Wright then showed off the junk food and snacks he and his fellow inmates have hoarded.
"We're hungry. About to eat a mother f****** feast. We've got scrumptious items we eat on a daily basis," Wright said.
"What they're doing is breaking the law. They're rubbing everyone's face in it," Wyatt said.
The Channel 4 I-Team examined more than 100 communications on the inmates' Facebook pages and found one case of an inmate communicating with an inmate in another prison.
One of the inmates wrote that he needs to get in touch with someone at the other inmate's prison and to send his phone number. The other inmate then posted his phone number.
"Here are two inmates communicating with each other in two different prisons," Finley said to Parker.
"It is a problem. Obviously this is instant communication," Parker said.
One photo shows three inmates holding up a shirt that is on fire inside a prison cell. The window to the cell is covered up.
"How can a guy set a shirt on fire without your correctional officers not knowing?" Finley asked.
"You have one officer and 128 inmates in a housing unit. It appears that they took something and covered the door," Parker said.
"This has to be embarrassing for you," Finley said.
"It's something I don't like, obviously," Parker said.
The Channel 4 I-Team's investigation is just beginning. Friday on Channel 4 News at 6 p.m., you will see how the I-Team called the inmates on the phone numbers they posted, and all the calls went through.
Also, Friday at 6 p.m., you will hear from the families of the criminals' victims, who said they are outraged at the freedom the inmates were experiencing. You will also learn how as a result of our investigation, state investigations were launched in fourteen prisons and how 70 inmates were disciplined.
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