Seven South Carolina inmates were punished with decades in solitary confinement for making a five-minute rap video.
Tyquane Elmore, Jacory Foster, Joshua Frazier, Dangelo Jackson, Desmond Metcalf, Kasper Mingo and Quincy Price, collectively received 7,150 days, which is just under 20 years, in addition to suspended phone, commissary and visiting privileges.
Public records obtained by Dave Maass, an investigator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, revealed the details. EFF is a nonprofit that defends "civil liberties of the digital world," according to their website.
In the video, the prisoners take turns rapping in a cypher from a tiny cell. The clip was uploaded to WorldStar last May and has received over a million views. “When the video went viral the first time, viewers caught a fleeting glimpse of the creative energy that exists behind bars,” 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 also said that officials were probably “embarrassed” that the video got out.
Five of the inmates received 180 days for the video, while the remaining two were given up to 360 days for partaking in social media. Officials at the Kershaw Correctional Facility further punished the group for possessing gang-related materials, contraband and a cell phone.
The WorldStar video was used as evidence in determining the disciplinary action, which was approved by the South Carolina Department of Corrections. “Their placement is not just tied to that rap video,” a SCDC spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. “It’s the fact that they are gang members and a continued threat to safety.”
The inmates are behind bars for armed robbery, burglary and voluntary manslaughter.
While overcrowding tends to lesson these kinds of punishments, in February, the EFF found that South Carolina officials gave hundreds of inmates years in solitary for social media violations. One inmate received 13,680 days (roughy 37 years) for 38 posts on Facebook.
The SDCD later modified the solitary confinement punishments to a maximum of 60 days for infractions, though social media is measured on the same scale as attacking a guard.
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