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  • Writer's picturePrisoner X

#7 Catfish – Part I

One of my closest friends lives in the U.K. In the years we have corresponded, I have become familiar with her entire family. Her younger sister has often regaled me with tales from her favorite TV series, called Catfish, which I had never seen. So, when the prison changed its channel lineup a few months ago, and the appropriate channel became available to me, I watched a few episodes.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term from which the series derives its name, "catfish", or more accurately, "to be catfished", is an expression which came into being due to social media. It refers to a person being lured into a romantic relationship by someone using a false profile, usually by utilizing attractive photos of a person other than themselves. These stories struck a chord with me, though not for the reasons you may guess.

One of the things that caught my attention on the program was that women were worried over being catfished by a prisoner. This was mentioned more than once. One guest host of the series asserted that this was entirely plausible, since prisoners with good behavior were allowed access to Facebook and Tinder. I found this to be rather amusing.

To begin with, prisoners are not given access to social media. Not for good behavior, nor for any other reason. Prison administrators are far too worried over prisoners planning escapes, setting up drug deals, arranging for the murder of witnesses, or any other of a myriad of crimes, to ever allow unmonitored contact with the outside world. In no institution of which I am aware, federal, state, local or private, is such a thing happening. So that is out. When it comes to phone use, all calls coming from a prison begin with a recorded message, stating that the call comes from an institution, and requiring that a button be pushed in order to accept. No one can receive a call from a prison, and remain unaware of the origin of the call. In addition to this, prison phones do not have the capability of sending instant messages or texts.

There is, of course, always the possibility of a prisoner contacting someone via a smuggled cell phone. Such a thing is exceedingly rare in federal prison, but has become fairly common in some state prisons. However, in places where it is happening, there are constant sweeps and searches. If these can be avoided, prisons are still full of those who would "snitch" over the phone, out of spite, jealousy, or in the attempt to receive some favor from the guards. So no matter how circumspect a prisoner might be, no one ever manages to hold onto a contraband phone for long.

It is also always possible to access social media through a third party. Many do this, and it is the reason you are reading this post right now. But due to the time lag entailed for getting a message out, and having someone else post it, there is no conceivable way to maintain the constant level of contact which would be required to catfish someone, and cause them to believe they were dealing with someone not incarcerated.

So, it IS theoretically possible for a prisoner to catfish a person on a social media site, and I am sure it has occurred. But this would require extraordinary circumstances and would never be maintained for any significant period of time. I feel confident in stating that, if a person is involved in an online relationship, through Tinder, Facebook, or other social media, and they are receiving regular contact through call, texts, and instant messages, they are most definitely not dealing with a prisoner.


Next article:

#8 Catfish - Part II


Picture: Kittirat Roekburi /

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