clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

South Carolina prisoners are given years in solitary for using Facebook

New, 22 comments
Henry Hagnäs / Flickr

Facebook is causing serious problems for South Carolina's prison population. An investigation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation has found hundreds of prisoners in South Carolina that have been sentenced to solitary confinement for posting to Facebook from contraband phones. Those sentences can easily ballooned to ridiculous levels, sentencing one prisoner to the equivalent of 37 years of solitary, together with the equivalent of 74 years of lost visitation rights, for a total of 38 Facebook posts. Because of a given prisoner's sentence, the effective length of the punishment is often much shorter, but it still stands as a stark punishment for services many outsiders take for granted.

The repercussions are so steep because of a sentencing rule that requires a different count for each day in which an inmate posts, which each count registered as the highest possible level of offense. That means that two weeks of Facebook use could produce as many as 14 different counts, while assaulting a fellow prisoner would only produce one. Use of a contraband phone is also banned, but the public, continual nature of social media seems designed to rack up large penalties under the current rules, particularly when prison officials don't become aware of the posts until days after the fact. The EFF investigation also turned up new efforts to catch prisoners in the act: a document showed $12,500 paid to an outside agency for services related to social media violations.