Another Baltimore Jail Milestone: An Inmate Appears to Be Instagramming From Behind Bars

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
May 21 2013 5:26 PM

Another Baltimore Jail Milestone: An Inmate Appears to Be Instagramming From Behind Bars

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An unidentified guard stands outside a maximum security Maryland state correctional facility.

Photo by LUKE FRAZZA/AFP/Getty Images

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It hasn’t been a good spring for the Baltimore City Detention Center. Last month, an indictment revealed that a gang called the Black Guerrilla Family had essentially taken control of the facility, using it as a base of operations for a lucrative drug business. According to the indictment, some corrections officers were complicit in the scheme; four female COs were even impregnated by gang members.

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Now, Baltimore’s Fox affiliate reports that an inmate awaiting trial on armed robbery, assault, and sex offense charges has been posting photos to Instagram from his cell. (One of the photos included the helpful hashtag #livefromthecell.)

When asked for comment, officials told Fox that there was no way to tell whether Thomas was actually posting the pictures himself. But if this is a fraud, it’s a pretty convincing fraud: the photos, posted under the username “hehasnochill,” show a variety of scenes from life on the inside. From the Twitter feed of Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton, here's a photo of an inmate talking on the phone and grabbing his crotch:

Here's one of a bunch of inmates enjoying one another's company:

Another picture, which you can see in this Fox segment, shows an inmate who appears to be Thomas sitting on the ground and flashing a sign to the camera. “in my cell and guess what? Im still the heart of the streets,” reads the message appended to that last picture. “westside what’s good?”

This is pretty benign compared to the Black Guerrilla Family story, to be sure. But it just goes to show how hard it is for officials to enforce regulations in overcrowded, underfunded detention facilities. Obviously, prisoners aren’t supposed to have access to mobile phones, but in a busy facility, there just aren’t enough COs to stop it from happening. Over the past month or two, I’ve written about a few of these urban lockups, and they are all dealing with more inmates than they can handle, who are there longer than they should be, often because sluggish courts take an incredibly long time to bring them to trial.

These sorts of poorly managed facilities might sound like good places to do time, given that inmates apparently have easy access to beer, sex, and social media, but in a mismanaged jail, the strong are more likely to prey on the weak. That might not make it onto hehasnochill’s Instagram feed, but it’s happening in Baltimore, mark my words.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.