Tweeting To Fight Crime: Puerto Rico's Social Media Experiment

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Twitter: @AndreaGompf

Twitter is arguably the most exciting social media platform that has emerged in the last two years (I say “arguably” only because I have developed a small Instagram obsession). It’s hard not to love a one-stop shop for basically any information you could ever want: breaking news, breakdowns of Mira Quién Baila, insights into what Kanye West think about persian rugs with cherub imagery, real-time updates on overseas revolutions, smart things that Jorge Ramos says, that one friend who only retweets horoscopes…I could go on forever.

In addition to streaming information at light speed, Twitter also gives us an opportunity to engage in interesting civic experiments. Some, like the Swedish government’s idea to hand over the official @Sweden Twitter account to a different citizen each week, can go awry. But others, like Puerto Rico’s experiment allowing three inmates to tweet about their lives in confinement, are fascinating uses of the media platform.

Launched in October by PR’s Department of Corrections, “Follow me so you don’t follow me” is a pilot program with the aim of deterring crime by providing a stark picture of life in confinement. The three selected inmates – two of whom are convicted of murder – are allowed to tweet three times a day, and their messages to the outside world are often heartbreaking (one recent tweet reads “Anoche soñe q estaba con mi hija q juntos decoramos el arbol de Navidad. Cuando abri los ojos estaba en 1 caja de barrotes.” Another: “En este momento mi padre esta enfermo y daria la vida por estar con el, pero no puedo. Tu puedes y no lo haces.”).

At a time when PR is struggling with violent crime – it reported a record-breaking 1,136 murders in 2011 in a territory that is home to less than four million people – these tweets are an innovative way to reach a young audience of those most likely to engage in at-risk behavior. The program seems especially timely given the #TodosSomosJoséEnrique social media movement emerging in PR in the wake of last Friday’s tragic murder of 32 year-old publicist José Enrique Gómez. José Enrique Gómez is just the latest in a string of high-profile deaths that have occurred on the island in the last several months, including Hector ‘Macho’ Camacho’s murder, and the murder of Calle 13 frontman René Pérez’s uncle.

Check out the “Follow me so you don’t follow me” program on Twitter at: @followtunfollow. You can also follow the individual inmates at: @confinado1, @confinado2, and @confinado3.