*Seven inmates at a South Carolina correctional facility are learning the consequences of artistic expression firsthand as a rap video they recorded while behind bars has landed them in solitary confinement for a combined total of 20 years.
According to Buzzfeed, the inmates recorded the video last year on a contraband cell phone and uploaded it to WorldStarHipHop.com. (Scroll down to see it.) Upon discovering what the inmates did, prison officials brought charges of disciplinary issues as punishment to the inmates as well as charges of “assessing with a social media site,” referencing gang-related material and possessing an illegal cell phone.
From there, the inmates were sentenced to various amounts of time in solitary confinement, which added up to a combined 20 years. In addition, the group ended up losing privileges ranging from visitation rights to phone time. For South Carolina Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling, the use of contraband cellphones and social media is something they take very seriously.
“We take the use of contraband cellphones and social media by inmates very seriously, and the punishments for using them are severe,” he said earlier this year. “We are no different from any other corrections department across the country dealing with this issue.”
Despite the correctional facility’s stance, the inmate’s punishment has raised an eyebrow with critics who note the detrimental effects of solitary confinement, Buzzfeed reports. In their eyes, the activists hope the punishment opens the door for a spotlight on what they say is criminal justice abuse.
“When the video went viral the first time, viewers caught a fleeting glimpse of the creative energy that exists behind bars,” investigative researcher Dave Maass told BuzzFeed. “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.”