Inmate, gang leader's Facebook page alarms police - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Incarcerated Savannah gang leader's Facebook page alarms police

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Millions of people across the world are connected by Facebook. In some cases, even inmates are online which has local law enforcement scratching their heads. 

One of Savannah's most notorious gang leaders was sent to a maximum security prison more than 20 years ago. 

Today, Ricky Jivens, a convicted drug dealer and alleged mastermind linked to dozens of murders, has his own Facebook page. 

"I did not know," Meg Heap, Chatham County District Attorney, said when WTOC told her of Jivens' profile on Facebook. "It is scary and that, I would think, the prison he is in would not allow Facebook. 

Heap was shocked, so WTOC asked Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett, who worked the streets during what some people we spoke to called the Jivens Gang's reign of terror. 

"To answer your question, I really am surprised," Lovett said. "I never thought I would see Ricky Jivens with a Facebook page in prison." 

Well, it's true. The page has photo posts from inside prison, and posts and comments from Jivens as recently as last week and some of them posted via mobile phone. 

"I'm not sure what the guidelines are when they went to prison, but I'm sure they didn't include getting a Facebook page," Lovett said. "When you go to prison, you are not supposed to have all the luxuries and privileges you have in the free world. If you are going to do that, why put him in prison in the first place? Might as well leave him out." 

WTOC's Don Logana contacted the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons who are looking into the Facebook activity. They do not have a specific policy addressing inmates on Facebook, but they do notify Facebook when it appears a page is allegedly being run by an inmate in their custody. 

A Bureau of Prisons representative told WTOC he believes the photos on Jivens' page is not from a cell phone, but instead taken by their inmate photo program where pics of inmates and their visitors are taken at the inmate's expense. The photos become the property of the inmate and can be sent to family and friends through the mail. 

However, if Jivens isn't operating his own page, somebody is. 

"Who is to say what is happening on that Facebook? Who is to say there is not some method of controlling outside business interests of his and you know what his business interest was," Lovett said. 

The same fears have been heard in countless other news stories around the country in the last few years, usually amid illegal cell phones being smuggled into prisons and jails, regarding inmates on Facebook. 

"There are a lot of things they can do with their sites. They can contact their victims, they can order hits, they can continue criminal enterprise. It's very important that something is put in place," said Candy Cheatham, a victim advocate. 

Jivens was sent to prison in the early 1990s, long before Facebook. Facebook's terms of service prohibit an individual other than the registered user from updating a Facebook account, which happens often when an inmate asks a friend or family member to access their page. Facebook has disabled inmate accounts, but Jivens' page is still active. 

Internet access and cell phones in prisons are prohibited in all states, but cell phones smuggled into prisoners continues to be a problem.

Heap said the warden of the coastal prisons has asked for her help prosecuting the nationwide problem of inmates who have cell phones and the people who got the phones inside. 

"You got access; you got cell phones. It brings in drugs," Heap said. "We said, 'Yes, we will help and get back with the warden and help with his problem in the prison.'" 

"If you have a Facebook page, it's a means of communicating. And what ever you need to say can be said on Facebook," Lovett said. 

Seven years ago, WTOC discovered Ricky Jivens was looking for love on a German website called "Friends Behind Bars." Chief Lovett says Facebook access, even by a third party for a man they believe influenced his gang to kill at least 20 people in Savannah, is a whole different story.

"So if you are asking me if he wanted to involve himself in some of his leadership skills and in terms of his business interests, yeah, he could do that. Very easily," Lovett told WTOC. "All I can say is a leopard doesn't change his spots, you know."

Many states, including Georgia, have passed laws making it a crime for inmates to use social networking sites, like Facebook. If found, inmates have time added on to their sentences. The same goes for cell phones. Both Georgia Department of Corrections and the Chatham County jail have banned Internet access.

In Georgia, inmates cannot have Facebook or Twitter and possession of a cell phone can equal up to five years added to a sentence.

Jivens is currently serving a life sentence at the federal supermax prison in Kentucky.

Below are the statements WTOC received from the Bureau of Prisons, Georgia Dept. of Corrections and the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

From Bureau of Corrections:

"The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) does not have a policy specifically addressing inmates' use of Facebook.  However, our inmates do not have access to the internet and possession of a cell phone is considered a Greatest Severity offense in our disciplinary program.  Inmates found to have possessed a cell phone are subject to a wide range of administrative sanctions (including loss of good conduct time, disciplinary segregation, loss of visiting and/or phone privileges, etc) as well as possible prosecution in federal court.

The BOP occasionally finds cell phones within our facilities, and we have serious concerns about their introduction into any of our facilities.  We conduct regular searches within our facilities to detect this type of contraband and investigate any allegations of cell phone possession.

Though you would need to contact Facebook to determine their current policy, the BOP routinely notifies them when it appears a 3rd party is updating a Facebook page allegedly belonging to an inmate in our custody. 

To clarify based on our phone conversation, inmate Ricky Jivens has been incarcerated at our Big Sandy, Kentucky, penitentiary since 2008.  And most, if not all, of our facilities have an inmate photo program in which photographs of inmates and/or their visitors are taken at the inmate's expense.  The photos become the property of the inmate and he/she is free to send them to family and friends through the mail," Chris Burke, Public Affairs Specialist, Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Georgia Department of Corrections:

"Inmates housed at GDC facilities are not given access to the internet and law (Senate Bill 366) prohibits them from possessing telecommunications devices in correctional facilities.  The sentence for violating or attempting to violate this law is imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years," Gwendolyn Hogan, Public Relations and Information Coordinator Georgia Department of Corrections.

Chatham County Sheriff's Office:

 "No cell phones are allowed in the secure area.  Not even the corrections officers and deputies who work in the jail are allowed to have them inside the secure area of the jail.  We have metal detectors at the entrance and bags are searched.  Only members of our command staff are allowed to have cell phones inside the jail.  Our inmates also have absolutely no access to the internet.  Therefore we do not have a problem with this in the Chatham County Detention Center. " Michelle Gavin, Director of Public Information Chatham County Sheriff's Office.

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