Inmates Get 20 Years In Solitary For Making Rap Video
Seven inmates at a South Carolina prison have been punished with serious time in solitary confinement for recording a rap video that went viral last year on World Star Hip Hop. The men are looking at a combined total of more than 7,000 days in solitary between them, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Last year, the South Carolina Department of Corrections launched an investigation into a rap video that had shown up on World Star Hip Hop. The video was said to have been filmed inside a South Carolina prison using a cell phone that the inmates had smuggled inside.
The men may have gotten away with recording their rap video, but it went viral once it hit World Star Hip Hop. According to the New York Daily News, the six-minute rap video was viewed more than one million times on World Star. It was later uploaded to YouTube and other video sites, where it is still available.
The first clue that it was filmed at a prison in the South Carolina Department of Corrections system? At the beginning of the video, you see one of the prisoners standing with his back to the camera, wearing an SCDC shirt.
The quality of the video is not high, but the faces of the seven men are all clearly visible at different points throughout, and investigators from the department of corrections were able to identify them.
The New York Daily News reports that details of the investigation, and punishments handed down to the seven men for making the illicit rap video, were obtained by David Maass, an investigative researcher with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
According to those documents, the seven men from the video each received an average of about 1,000 days in solitary confinement in connection with the rap video, for a total of over 7,000 days, or nearly 20 years, between them.
In addition to getting nearly two decades in solitary confinement, the prisoners also lost a number of privileges like phone time and visitation hours.
The reason that the punishment for making a rap video in prison was so harsh is that the act of making the video, along with actions taken before, during, and after recording the video, each came with its own consequences.
The prisoners weren’t supposed to have a cell phone, so they were punished for that. They were also punished for throwing gang signs in the video and later accessing social media to post the video, according to the documents that the EFF obtained from the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
David Maass told the New York Daily News that this incident is just one example of abusive solitary confinement punishment in the United States penal system.
“It’s embarrassing for them that it happened, because it makes them look like they have no control, but on the whole, South Carolina becomes the poster child for abuse of solitary confinement.”
According to the New York Daily News, documents obtained by the EFF show that South Carolina has become notorious for handing down solitary confinement punishments over social media infractions and other non-violent incidents.
For instance, documents obtained by the EFF show that the SCDC put some 400 prisoners in solitary confinement for using Facebook in just one month last February.
The Post and Courier reports that the SCDC has defended its use of solitary confinement, especially in regard to infractions that involve cell phone and social media use.
“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,” South Carolina Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said earlier this year.
BuzzFeed News spoke to Stephanie Givens, a SCDC spokesperson, who insisted that the men weren’t simply punished for making a rap video, and that they deserved the punishment.
“Their placement is not just tied to that rap video,” Givens told BuzzFeed News. “It’s the fact that they are gang members and a continued threat to safety.”
Givens went on to say that all seven men were previously convicted of violent crimes, including armed robbery and voluntary manslaughter.
David Maass doesn’t agree with the idea that solitary confinement is a fitting punishment for smuggling a cell phone into prison, recording a rap video, and posting it to social media.
“When the video went viral the first time, viewers caught a fleeting glimpse of the creative energy that exists behind bars,” The EFF investigator 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.”
Do you think it’s a good idea for a prison to take up limited solitary confinement space, for a combined total of 20 years, over a non-violent offense like recording a rap video?
[Image via YouTube]