POLITICS

New Mexico Prisoner Faced 90 Days In Solitary Over Facebook Page [UPDATE]

07/15/2014 06:05 pm ET | Updated Jul 15, 2014
New Mexico Correction Dept via EFF

The New Mexico Corrections Department told HuffPost Tuesday it was reviewing its policies after an inmate faced a 90-day stretch in solitary confinement because of a Facebook page.

Eric Aldaz is serving a sentence at the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility for offenses including aggravated assault on a peace officer, fleeing the police and possessing a firearm. A Facebook page dedicated to him recently aroused the disgust of a mother who said he killed her son in a separate incident when he was a juvenile.

A New Mexico Corrections Department rule prohibits "third parties" -- in this case, it appears, Aldaz's family -- from providing indirect Internet access to inmates. Prison disciplinary proceedings regarding the Facebook page began on March 11. According to disciplinary records released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online-rights group, Aldaz was recorded after that asking a relative in a phone call "to post a new picture of him or an old picture of him and to put on there about people keep on hating him."

Prison officials alleged that by failing to convince his relatives to take the Facebook page down, Aldaz was guilty of violating corrections department policy. A prison hearing officer gave him 90 days in solitary confinement on March 31.

But New Mexico Corrections Department spokeswoman Alexandria Tomlin told HuffPost on Tuesday that Aldaz's punishment was thrown out on July 1.

"We have already denied that discipline and he didn't serve the discipline," she said. "We are reviewing the policy."

Earlier on Tuesday, the EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the Human Rights Defense Center and Prison Legal News sent a joint letter to the New Mexico Corrections Department asking it to reconsider its punishment. "No one should serve 90 days, or even a single day, in solitary confinement for simply having a Facebook page," their letter said.

An EFF spokesperson said that at the time they sent their letter, the groups had not been notified that the punishment had been denied.

Aldaz may not seem like the most sympathetic civil liberties poster boy, but the EFF's Dave Maass pointed out in a blog post that the language of the no-Internet rule is "so broad that it could be used to punish inmates for innocuous acts such as asking their family to pay their outstanding credit bills through online banking or to send print-outs of medical information from health websites."

This story was updated to reflect the news that the New Mexico Corrections Department had thrown out the punishment and was reviewing its policies.

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