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Although the subject of prisoners accessing the internet through illicit communication devices is commonly reported by prison agencies nevertheless, there is very little prison sociological research into how prisoners themselves engage in online activity and the effects of this on prisoner agency. Using Russian prisoners as a case study, this paper reports findings from a Leverhulme funded study on the ways that prisoner agency and structure connect and cohere in Russia using the internet. My key question is: what are the effects of using social media on prisoner behaviour and the prison environment in Russia? My claim is that the internet, together with the exceptional history of Russian incarceration, are changing the face of imprisonment in Russia in unprecedented and profound ways to produce new forms of agency, and renewed resilience of the socio-carceral structure. My main finding is that Russian penality now sits at the nexus of two processes: it is de-institutionalised in that the prison, discursively speaking, is no longer fixed to a built form, and it is reflexively re-territorialised in that it places prisoner agency onto a third space. I situate these findings in a hitherto underdeveloped conceptual framework of prisoners-as-absent. The significance of this finding for world prison sociology is that the interplay between de-institutionalisation and re-territorialisation has produced on a new penal imagery - a carceral motif for the twenty first century - in the form of a virtual world.