The website Yelp, long established as a place to get customer reviews on hotels and restaurants, has been seeing an increase in reviews from prison inmates. The reviews are sometimes posted by family members, visitors, or even attorneys, says longtime California lawyer Robert Miller.
“I started reviewing because I needed something to kill time while I waited to see clients,” Miller told the paper. “But I think the reviews are actually helpful for bail bondsmen, attorneys, family members — a lot of people, actually.”
Some critics have reasoned that it’s hard to determine the accuracy of the prison reviews, but it would seem that argument is likely the same of any individual review of a hotel or restaurant.
The “accuracy” arises from the consensus which emerges as the number of reviews increases. That said, some of the reviews had a tongue-in-cheek nature such as the woman who thanked Rikers Island Prison for driving home the lesson that she must never drink & drive.
The reviews include complaints, advice and, occasionally, praise.
“One time I was arrested in Chicago on a case of mistaken identity. I understand that the police make mistakes and I don’t hold that against them. Overall, the jail was pretty miserable,” one person wrote of the Cook County Jail in Illinois. “The beds were very uncomfortable and my bunkmate was frequently rude. The only reason that I’m giving it two stars is because of the food; it was great and very reasonably priced. I suggest chicken mole, boeuf bourguignon, or cannelloni ricotta e spinaci.”
In some cases, attorneys have said the Yelp reviews have at times proved useful in defending their clients.
The Yelp reviews have even led to some investigations regarding conditions for inmates.
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told ABCNews.com that it was aware of Yelp reviews but did not devote a lot of hours poring over them.
“Who has time? I don’t know anyone in the department that does,” the spokeswoman said. “We’re under enormous challenges right now and, frankly, don’t have time.”
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times given that the United States has the largest prison population in the world at 716 per 100,000 population. Either way, in the information age that the tech boom created, getting the full skinny on prisons is just part of ongoing proliferation of knowledge.
On The Web:
Yelp Prison Reviews: Lawyers, Inmates Report Good And Bad Conditions Online (PHOTOS)
Inmates Review Prisons on Yelp