Why Inmates are Reviewing Jails and Prisons on Yelp

Oct 16, 2015

When you’re on vacation or in an unfamiliar part of town looking for something to eat, you might look up restaurant reviews on Yelp to help narrow your choices. But now, prisoners across the country are also gravitating toward the platform and describing their experiences in jail. Review platforms like Yelp have become an unexpected online space for people to make the prison system more transparent while simultaneously fulfilling a personal and therapeutic void.

Marshall Project writer Beth Schwartzapfel can attest to this sentiment. After speaking to a couple of reviewers she realized their motivations were more personal.  

“I think for a lot of people it just helps them to just write down what they’ve been through," says Schwartzapfel. “One woman just told me that directly. She said, ‘I wrote a review because I couldn’t afford a therapist.’”

 

Listen to the segment below.

 

Here is a list of a couple of the most jarring and personal reviews we found across three different facilities in the United States.

Credit Via Googlemaps / bit.ly/1jEg4Wa

Austin City Jail

  Alon B. (5 Stars)

Listen.... I learned a lot at summer camp as a child but if you REALLY want to learn skills you can use, you NEED to go to jail.
I'll explain:

Summer Camp: You learn how to tie a knot.

Jail - Learn how, using a razor, toothbrush and a lighter you can make a weapon to either defend yourself my the biker looking for companionship OR to shank a snitch!

WINNER - Jail

Jen L. (1 Star)

I got to sleep in a paper gown, on a concrete slab, with no cushions or sheets or anything I could maybe use to either kill myself or get comfortable.  It smells like death in there, and it's cold.

More Austin City Jail Yelp Reviews HERE

Credit rollingrck Via Flickr CC / flic.kr/p/2kuCDg

Manhattan Central Booking

  

Jack H. (1 Star)

Obviously the place was jammed pack, overcrowded with people sleeping on the floor. Dudes taking sh*ts right in front of you too. I was in the cell with the dudes/maniacs who were in that so-called "Biker Gang" that attacked that chinese dude in his Range Rover... Pretty unreal.

Richard W. (2 Stars) I was pleased to find feces on my floor, peeling walls, windows that only let in humidity, and a curious amount of generic graffiti on my ceiling, which appeared to have been written with shoe polish.  More Manhattan Central Booking Yelp Reviews HERE 

Credit Via Googlemaps / bit.ly/1KbSRQl

Rikers Island Correctional Facility

 Leslie W. (3 Stars)

Great vacation getaway if you like getting your butt kicked from both inmates and officers. Food is decent but I've had a lot better from the dollar menu. Floors are dirty. I seen bed bugs crawling around the size if roaches. Gotta wash your under wears in the sink if you’re unlucky you will have to do them for others.

Bloodsnake 1 (1 Star)

The city of New York suggested I stay on the island for 3 months. Week 1 I witnessed a man get stabbed with a splintered chicken bone, I don't miss the midnight shake downs or stripping naked in front of correctional officers and being forced to spread my a** and squat. I was completely depleted of vitamin D and drank purell hand sanitizer and instant koolaid just to feel something. Would not recommend rikers island.  Miss those duchess honey buns though.

Larry C. (4 Stars)

This place is a country club compared to a third world prison

More Rikers Island Correctional Facility Yelp Reviews HERE

For more information about Yelp reviews on jails you can read an article by Beth Schwartzapfel for the Marshall Project.