Hot on Yelp: Prison Reviews

But amusing trend underscores serious problem
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2013 12:59 PM CDT
Hot on Yelp: Prison Reviews
This image shows a Yelp web site on a computer screen in Los Angeles Thursday March 18, 2010.   (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Planning on committing a crime in the near future? You might want to check Yelp first and make sure you do so in a county that has a nice jail. Yes, prison reviews are increasingly popular on Yelp, with reviewers commenting on everything from cleanliness and food quality to security issues and whether staff members violated any of their "constitutional privileges." Some of the reviews are questionable (one reviewer praised a prison for handing out juice boxes, when it does not actually do so), but many are legit—and they underscore a serious problem, the Washington Post reports.

Inmates with complaints about prison life have few options—they can't sue unless they've exhausted all administrative avenues, and many advocates say the system is abused, with serious problems as a result: mentally ill patients incorrectly placed in solitary; retaliation from prison staff when complaints are made through the proper channels; hundreds of complaints about prison conditions that never make it to court. "Anything that increases public awareness of prison conditions is a positive thing," says an ACLU director. And a lawyer adds that Yelp reviews "[help] elevate consciousness of the problems and [bring] transparency and oversight to a system that isn’t used to being transparent." (Read more Yelp stories.)

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