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Prisons And Jails Reviewed On Yelp

Submitted by on April 29, 2013 – 12:01 pmNo Comment

A one-star review on Yelp: the food was terrible, the service was completely inattentive… and another guest there shanked you?

Prisoners, lawyers, and ex-cons are taking to the site better known for convenient maps of popular restaurants, bars, and local businesses. But Yelp also apparently provides a place to review detention facilities across the country, offering a rare public, prominent forum to air grievances about the prison system.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this might be a result of the limited avenues available to prisoners suffering abuse:

Because of a 1996 law called the Prison Litigation Reform Act, inmates cannot sue over prison conditions until they have “exhausted” administrative procedures, and they can ask for only limited changes to prison policy. Just a few states, such as Texas and New York, have outside inspectors who watch for abuse within the system.

The Yelp reviews also seem to feature several lawyers criticizing or complimenting the ability to see their clients quickly and easily.

But Drake Bennett at Bloomberg suggests that the prison reviews are just a symptom of the modern urge to publicize, criticize, communalize, and document our every experience, saying Yelp reviews are “more about self-expression.” And with little hope for redress from many of these reviews, Bennett may have a point: many reviews have a more laid back vibe.

Prisons aren’t the only unusual things getting reviewed on Yelp: a traffic light in Hawaii gets complaints; The Moon and Mars battle for intergalactic business; and Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin receives 1.5 stars as “Local Flavor” in Wasilla (the page notes she is not good for kids).

According to Yelp’s FAQ, any ”local business, service or place with a physical presence is fair game.”

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