Prison Reviews on Yelp

Incarcerated prisoners are prohibited from voting except for in two states, Vermont and Maine. To add to that, according to the Sentencing Project, approximately 5 million Americans are denied their right to vote because of a felony conviction. Many states also do not even allow former prisoners on probation to vote, and in most of those states they have to go through a rigorous application process to be considered eligible to vote again.

No matter what the crime, a person leaving prison faces a number of disadvantages in a society that overlooks and/or demonizes them. A person getting out of prison is more likely to not find a job, therefore more likely to end up homeless and committing crimes. According to the Piton Foundation, a Denver community outreach program that provides children and their families resources to escape poverty, “a quarter of people on parole in the metro area, more than one-third in Denver, end up in homeless shelters or other temporary housing.”

And so with few outlets to express their hardships and experiences, Yelp, the popular consumer review website, has provided them a way to have a voice. Yelp now has reviews for prisons all across the country. Lawyers post reviews on whether or not the prison allowed them ample time to speak with a client, cleanliness, and whether or not the deputies were nice or abrasive. Families can also comment on visiting areas and stories their inmate family members relay to them. Former prisoners can share their complaints and praises, commenting on everything from the food to serious accusations of abuse.

As with any site on the Internet, accuracy can become an issue, especially concerning accusations of abuse or mistreatment. The Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, California has had a string of alleged abuse and, according to Stephen Whitmore, spokesperson for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, “every allegation we get, we investigate.” One such reviewer alleged that in June of 2012, five guards at the Central Jail mercilessly beat him for no reason and then laughed about it afterward.

What do you think about these reviews? Do you believe they will be helpful to former inmates?

To learn more about prison reviews on Yelp, click here.