A "music video" filmed at South Carolina's Kershaw Correctional Institution made inmates famous on the Internet last year. They're now paying the price, big time. Public documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show seven inmates were handed a combined 20 years in solitary confinement for the clip, which shows inmates rapping, beatboxing, and dancing in a cell. Filmed in 2014 and posted to WorldStarHipHop.com, the video became a key part of their sentencing, as prison officials pointed out the use of gang signs, a cellphone to film the clip, and social media to make it public, the New York Daily News reports. The inmates also lost visitation hours and other privileges. "South Carolina becomes the poster child for abuse of solitary confinement" with the move, says Dave Maass, an investigative researcher with the EEF.
The digital rights group has set its sights on the state before: Back in February, the EFF found the South Carolina Department of Corrections doled out stints in solitary confinement to hundreds of inmates caught using Facebook—including 37 years to an inmate who posted to the site 38 times, though such punishments are often shortened, per Buzzfeed. The SCDC's director said severe punishments for the use of contraband cellphones and social media were warranted, noting a corrections officer "was shot six times in his home due to an attempted contract killing via a contraband cellphone." Still, the SCDC in February revised its policy, saying it wouldn't let an inmate stay in solitary for more than 60 days. In explaining the length of the latest punishments, a rep says they are justified because the inmates "are gang members and a continued threat to safety." (Here's how solitary confinement breaks the mind.)