A group of inmates at a South Carolina prison were punished after a rap video they recorded in the facility went viral, BuzzFeed News reports.
Seven inmates were given a combined total punishment of 7,150 days, or 19.75 years, of solitary confinement at the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). The group of men recorded the video, “I’m On,” last March and uploaded it to YouTube and popular site WorldStarHipHop. So far, the tape has garnered over a million views.
Five of the men will spend 180 days in “disciplinary detention.” The other two inmates’ punishment was made up of 270 and 360 days for “creating or assisting with a social media site.”
They also lost years-worth of privileges, including “good time” gained, visitation, and phone and canteen usage.
The SCDC came under fire for the punishment after it was revealed even longer periods of solitary confinement were given to other prisoners for using social media in the past.
BuzzFeed News reports:
In February, the SCDC announced it was changing its policy for solitary confinement, making 60 days the maximum punishment in solitary confinement for an infraction. It also stopped making each post on social media an individual infraction. However, Stephanie Givens, a spokesperson for the SCDC, said the inmates’ punishments were reviewed and found to be appropriate.
“Their placement is not just tied to that rap video,” Stephanie Givens, a spokesperson for the SCDC, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s the fact that they are gang members and a continued threat to safety.”
The inmates were initially serving time for armed robbery, burglary, and voluntary manslaughter.
“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,” Stirling said earlier this year. “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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union is now questioning the prisoners’ First Amendment rights. As head of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, David Fathi says solitary confinement has proven to cause mental anguish.
BuzzFeed News reports:
It’s hard to believe that South Carolina prison officials don’t have better things to do than troll the internet looking for prison videos,” Fathi told BuzzFeed News.
“The more we learn about solitary confinement, the more we know how profoundly damaging it is to physical and mental health,” Fathi said, noting that a United Nations expert on torture has called for solitary confinement over 15 days to be completely abolished. “We know there are measurable changes in the brain after seven days in isolation. A year or six months is grossly excessive.”
The SCDC continued to argue the video wasn’t the main source of the prisoners’ punishment, instead focusing on the contraband used to create it. Most of the evidence used in the case, however, was the specific video from WorldStarHipHop.
Sample the rap video here: