The South Carolina Department of Corrections has imposed the most extensive and harshest use of solitary confinement as a punishment for inmates using Facebook. The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a report revealing that South Carolina’s Department of Corrections equates an inmate “creating and/or assisting with a social networking site”—the same as an inmate committing a violent crime against another inmate or correctional officer.
According to state records, some inmates using Facebook are punished by losing visitation and telephone privileges, but many inmates are punished with solitary punishment. During the period of 2011–2014, 432 disciplinary cases were filed against 397 South Carolina inmates for using social media, usually Facebook. Forty received more than two years in solitary confinement, and sixteen were sentenced to more than ten years of solitary confinement. Tyheem Henry was punished with thirty seven years of solitary confinement for posting on Facebook 38 times. The prison also took away 74 years of phone, visitation,and commissary privileges.
The inmates are prohibited from access to the internet, and the social media including Facebook in prison. The inmates who have violated this ban have used illegal cellphones that were smuggled into prison or had a family member or friend post on Facebook for the inmate.
In fairness, the prison prohibits the use of the internet and social media to stop inmates from using the social media for illegal purposes such as gang activity or threats to witnesses. Nevertheless, the punishment for the innocent use of Facebook is as harsh as the use of Facebook for an illegal purpose.
The United States is number one for the most inmates, prisons, and prisoners held in solitary confinement. United States also leads the world with the most inmates, 80,000, incarcerated in solitary confinement. Prisoners in solitary confinement are often confined to small cells, six feet by nine feet, without windows, with little to no access to the outside world for years. Inmates are confined to these cells for 23 hours a day. For many inmates, the confinement can be for many months and even years. Such extreme isolation has serious psychological effects on inmates who will eventually be released to their community. According to several state studies, fifty percent of prison suicides occur in solitary confinement.
It is time for every state and county prison system to examine their use of solitary confinement as a punishment.
By: Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com