A South Carolina prison has taken abuse of power to a whole new level, committing seven of its inmates to more than 7,000 days - almost 20 years - in solitary confinement for posting a rap video they made from within their cells.
South Carolina's Kershaw Correctional Institution is punishing the group for throwing gang signs in the video, having a cell phone to film it and accessing social media. The sentencing for each inmate involved is an average of 1,000 days each in solitary confinement. The inmates also lost years-worth of canteen, phone call and visitation privileges, as well as any good time they had accrued.
The video, which was posted to World Star Hip Hop, garnered over one million views and was used as evidence in the investigation.
“When the video went viral the first time, viewers caught a fleeting glimpse of the creative energy that exists behind bars,” Dave Maass told BuzzFeed News. “Now that we know how dearly each inmate paid for their participation, the video takes on all new significance. People in this country are still sacrificing their freedom and well-being for expression.” Maass, who works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, obtained the public records that revealed the investigation.
This is not the first time the EFF has come after South Carolina's Department of Corrections. Earlier this year the EFF obtained records that showed inmates were getting severely punished for using social media. One of the most severe cases the EFF found, an inmate named Walter Brown, "received 12,600 days (34.5 years) in disciplinary detention and lost 25,200 days (69 years) in telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges, and 875 days (2.4 years) of good time—all for 35 posts on Facebook."
Because of this practice South Carolina prisons are running out of room in solitary confinement. However, the number of prisoners in solitary confinement for disciplinary infractions is down from 1,700 last year to about 1,400.
The SCDC stands behind its policy on inmates use of social media. Earlier this year Bryan Stirling, director of the SCDC, had this to say on the policy:
“We have to look no further than our own S.C. corrections officer, Captain Johnson, who was shot six times in his home due to an attempted contract killing via a contraband cellphone. We take the use of contraband cellphones and social media by inmates very seriously, and the punishments for using them are severe. We are no different from any other corrections department across the country dealing with this issue.”