Killer prisoner on Facebook: ‘Authorities have to clamp down on this’

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People will quite rightly be appalled by our revelation today that killer William McCardle is able to make a plea for pen pals – from behind bars at Saughton.

The wife of Billy McPhee, the man he killed with a sword in a drunken dispute over a chocolate bar, is understandably disgusted.

For the rest of us, it must call into question just how much access prisoners – especially the likes of killers and rapists – should have with the outside world.

Of course, most convicts should be allowed to keep family ties intact through visits, letters and calls.

In many cases this contact is all prisoners have to look forward to, and taking them away would likely increase trouble in prisons and also make the recidivism rate rocket even higher.

But modern technology, and especially social networking, have made it easier than ever for everyone to interact more widely. It appears that even prison walls can’t prevent it happening.

The smuggling of mobile phones has long been a bane of prison governors’ lives, but these days they aren’t just used to make illicit phone calls.

Some can also be used to update social network pages, and not just to upload some cheeky banter but also to harass witnesses and others on the outside.

The authorities simply have to clamp down on this sort of activity by using technology to monitor it and then the removal of privileges to punish those prisoners involved.

Even though in McCardle’s case it appears that the Facebook page has been set up in his name by someone on the outside, it must be possible to shut it down – even if all his mail, and not just any pen pal letters he picks up, has to be withheld until he helps make that happen.

That, of course, would doubtless have the human rights lawyers back on the case. But if, after other “successes” they took this “right” to court it would be a battle worth fighting on the part of the justice system.

Part of the punishment of being in prison is having some rights taken away, including the one the rest of us enjoy – to interact at will with the rest of the world.