Prison User Reviews

Wired has an interesting article out this morning entitled “How Inmates and Loved Ones Review Jails on Yelp.” The article explains:

User-review sites have become an unlikely destination for raw, informative accounts of Americans’ everyday interactions with the criminal justice system.

One of the Wayne County Jail’s divisions, the Andrew C. Baird Detention Facility (Division I), for example, has 2.5 stars on Yelp. That’s with three reviews. Some jail reviews, as noted by Wired, are actually pretty informative. Athena K. writes about Baird:

This is one of three adult jails in the area. Wayne County operates the largest jail system in the State of Michigan. In addition to Baird, there is the Old Wayne County Jail and the William Dickerson Detention Facility.

This jail is newer and in some ways, cleaner, than others. But it has many of the problems that are prevelent in other urban jails. As a social worker I occassionally visit detention facilities and, frankly, I’ve seen better. The process for visits is very chaotic and traumatizing to both the inmates and the family members. Staff are rude to visitors, professionals (like myself) who are entering the facility on business, and even to each other.

She even included a picture.

The facility also has 9 reviews, and 2.9 stars, on Google. Those reviews are much less informative.

Another Wayne County Jail division, the William Dickerson Detention Facility, doesn’t appear to be reviewed on Yelp, but has 7 reviews, and 2.9 stars, on Google. These reviews are also less informative and more in the variety of “this place sucks.”

Cook County Jail, which this blog has covered before, has an impressive 53 reviews on Google. But still only 2.9 stars. It has 11 reviews and around 2.5 stars on Yelp. As with the Detroit jails, Cook County Jail’s reviews on Yelp are actually fairly informative and well written.

UPDATE: The Marshall Project also has an article on this topic this morning.

Low-cost technology for emergency managers

My friend Shahrzad Rizvi, along with co-author Joshua Kelly, recently published an article in Public Management Magazine titled “Communicating Emergency Information on a Budget.” The article covers low-cost ways for emergency managers to connect with their communities. It highlights social media, new types of alert systems, and free online mapping of public safety concerns. The article includes links to some of these new tools, so I encourage you to check it out.

Politicians using social media

twitter politicsA hot topic right now is politicians using social media to communicate with constituents.

One example is Michigan state representative Justin Amash. According to a 2011 article on, Amash posts “all his votes, reasons behind them and other news from the floor on his Facebook page.” He emphasizes that it increases transparency for voters.

Twitter is another increasingly popular tool in politics. The Chicago Redeye reported on the trend on January 9:

In addition to [Chicago] Mayor Emanuel’s handle (@rahmemanuel), aldermen in 29 of the city’s 50 wards have Twitter accounts, according to a RedEye review, although each varies in how frequently he or she posts. . . .

“They don’t get it,” Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said of his colleagues who don’t use the microblogging service. “It takes effort and I think [the City Council is] way, way, way behind the curve. There is no reason not to have it.”

There is even an assistant professor at IIT, Libby Hemphill, who is tracking Chicago politician’s tweets looking for patterns about the information shared.

For politicians, however, using Twitter (or Facebook) is not without risks.

Politico reporter Scott Wong summed it up like this:

Twitter’s a dream for politicians with an itch to reach voters in candid, quick bursts, but the fear of jokes gone wrong, gaffes and hacks is becoming palpable.

Because of the potential for gaffes, one democratic consultant recommends that politicians stick to Facebook and not personally post on Twitter.

The best solution may be for politicians to hire professional tweeters to post tweets for them. As Wired covered in November 2011, many celebrities already employ “ghost tweeters,” who go to great lengths to copy their employers tone and voice while tweeting frequently in an effort to connect with fans and increase the celebrity’s profile. Of course professional tweeters are far outside the budget of most politicians (though probably not Mitt Romney), so they are stuck with drafting carefully.