Inmates on Facebook have become one of the most powerful online platforms for the world’s most dangerous criminals.
But, in the past, it has also been a source of fascination for some.
This is the story of how an inmate at an Australian prison helped set up a Facebook group, which has now grown into a worldwide movement, and the internet is where we have all learned to communicate.
The internet is a place of refuge, says inmate Shae, who spent seven years in Melbourne’s HMP Macquarie.
It was there that he first discovered the internet.
“I was there in the early days, and it was pretty early on, it was like, this is really cool, but you don’t know how to use it.
I was like: ‘Oh, that’s really cool,'” he says.
For Shae it was a chance to create a new community online.
“There was no real social network, there was no website.
There was no group, no discussion.
It was just me, me and my friends,” he says, adding that the internet helped him connect to other inmates.”
When I saw it was something I could do, it became a real thing, I started doing it.”
Shae is now working as a programmer and social media manager at the jail.
He says the internet was crucial in his first years there, but after four years, the internet became a source for “a lot of people who have no access to the internet”.
“It was like a place to go, but also a place where people can go,” he explains.
“It’s kind of like, it’s like, I’m here, you’re here, let’s hang out, go out.
It’s a safe place.”
The internet has become an invaluable tool for the inmates of the HMPMacquarie prison, but for some, it also helped to create something of a phenomenon.
“The internet was an incredible tool to help us with the things we needed to do, but I feel like now it’s a place for people to get in touch with their families,” says Shae.
The prison had become a sanctuary for the many dangerous criminals who had been sent to the maximum security prison.
It is the home of the notorious serial killer Michael O’Brien, who was executed in December 2015 for his part in the murder of two people.
Many inmates who were incarcerated there for their part in murder and manslaughter are now working in other sectors, including tech companies and the entertainment industry.
Shae has recently become a regular speaker at tech events.
He has also developed a series of videos for the group, called “Sisters”, that have been watched more than 2.5 million times.
“We are really trying to use the internet as a resource to connect, we want to connect and make a difference.
We want to be a place that everybody can access and be able to go to.
It makes me feel more comfortable, it makes me happy.
And it gives me a chance for people who don’t have a chance, who are struggling to make a living, to connect with each other,” he adds.
Shade’s work has also helped him secure funding for the project, as he and the group have raised more than $15,000 (£9,000) through the group’s social media campaign.
But for Shae the biggest challenge has been trying to keep the project going.
“That’s a hard thing to do.
I think it’s hard to keep something going if you’re in prison, because you feel like there’s a lack of resources, there’s no money, it doesn’t seem like there is a community out there,” he laughs.”
To do that we have to have the ability to keep things alive.
It just feels like we’re not being able to do that.”
Shade has been working as an IT specialist since his release, and says that he has seen a big change in prison.
“Now that I’ve got the opportunity to do things like go to a conference or come and speak to people, it gives a lot of energy to keep working,” he tells Al Jazeera.
“So, it feels like it’s not that long ago, that I was on the internet.”
He also feels like he has a lot to offer as a tech leader.
“This is a technology company, it is a tech company.
It is going to be the future, it will be the technology, and I think I can help in that sense,” he concludes.