In the South Carolina prison system, accessing Facebook is an offense on par with murder, rape, rioting, escape and hostage-taking.
It has been recently reported that the South Carolina Department Of Corrections is handing out time equivalent to that of murder, rape, and kidnapping for a simple post on Facebook.
Tyheem Henry was handed down 13,680 days (37.5 years) in disciplinary detention and lost 27,360 days (74 years) worth of telephone, visitation, and canteen privileges, and 69 days of good time for 38 posts on Facebook. Others such as Walter Brown, who received 34.5 years in solitary and lost 69 years of phone, visits, and commissary privileges, were handed down these sentences that have been termed “cruel and unusual punishment” by human rights organizations.
A report from the SCDC that was released earlier this month reveals that 432 similar cases were placed against 397 inmates since the “Creating and/or Assisting With A Social Networking Site” Level 1 offense was implemented in 2013. The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a Freedom of Information Act request for the SCDC and discovered that accessing social media sites like Facebook or even emails had penalties same as murder and rape. See report here.
Inmates were also penalized for each day that they logged onto the social media site, in which correctional facility administrators used this as an opportunity to charge the inmates with separate offenses. For example, an inmate that updated their status 20 times in one log-in session received less time than an inmate who logged in five times on five separate occasions.
In the overwhelming majority of the cases, the penalty for these “crimes” will far outlast the length of time the inmates’ sentences will last.
It is still unclear how the internet accessible cell phones have made their way behind bars not only in South Carolina prisons, but around the country.