Somewhere, Lee Daniels is having a really good laugh.
Seven prisoners from a South Carolina jail are now facing a total of 20 years in solitary confinement after making and releasing the rap music video above on World Star Hip Hop from behind bars.
A researcher from the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained records of the punishment by South Carolina’s Department of Corrections (SCDC) showing that five of the prisoners were punished with 180 days of “disciplinary detention” as the others were punished with 270 and 360 days for producing content and using social media.
In addition, the inmates were punished for posing a security threat through their gang-related materials and their contraband phone; these infractions were punished so severely that their sentences to solitary confinement were extended to over 19 years combined.
Solitary confinement wasn’t the only thing prisoners were disciplined with; the inmates were also stripped of years worth of canteen, phone and visitation privileges. The group members in the video are all in prison for serious crimes like robbery, burglary and voluntary manslaughter.
Dave Maass, the researcher who discovered the case spoke to Buzzfeed news explaining:
“When the video went viral the first time, viewers caught a fleeting glimpse of the creative energy that exists behind bars…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.”
The SDC has already been criticized for what some are calling exorbitant or cruel and unusual punishment against inmates for using social media. The case also speaks to the current debates on what levels of solitary confinement are appropriate for inmates and whether this type of punishment is constitutional.
David Fathi, the director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project said:
“They’re finding them guilty of a separate violations of creating or assisting with social networking site. That seems like a First Amendment violation on its face.”
Fathi continued to say that research shows solitary confinement is damaging to individuals’ physical and mental health. In fact, a United Nations torture expert has demanded that solitary confinement sentences exceeding 15 days be abolished.
In February, the SCDC ruled that 60 days would be the new maximum for each offense exhibited by one of its inmates. However, Spokesperson Stephanie Givens has maintained that the case has been thoroughly reviewed and the punishments for each prisoner have been deemed appropriate for their infractions.
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1. Dejah Joyner
Joyner, 12, died after being struck by a stray bullet that flew into her home.
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2. Jamyla Bolden
Bolden, only 9-years-old, was shot dead while doing her schoolwork in her Ferguson home.
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3. James Craig Anderson
In April, two Mississippi women were finally sentenced for murdering Anderson in 2011 by brutally beating him and running over him with their truck.
4 of 20
4. Deiondre Porter
This U of Florida football player was arrested for shooting at his pregnant girlfriend after he accused her of being unfaithful.
5 of 20
5. DeAndre Johnson
Johnson, a college football star was caught punching a woman in the face after a brief dispute at a bar.
6 of 20
6. Brent Randall
Randall, a freshman at Texas Southern University, died in a shooting on campus that stemmed from an argument during a basketball game.
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7. Barvetta Singletary
Singletary, an assistant to President Barack Obama, was given assault charges after shooting at her boyfriend.
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8. Charnesia Corley
Corley was sexually assaulted by Texas police during a cavity search on the side of the road; police tried to justify the attack by saying that they suspected her of possessing marijuana.
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9. Christian Taylor
Taylor was shot after an alleged altercation with police at a car dealership.
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10. Jonathan Ferrell
In August, a mistrial was declared in case of Randall Kerrick, a NC officer who fatally shot Ferrell in 2013.
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11. Kendrick Johnson
In August, brothers Branden and Brian Bell denied any involvement in Johnson's mysterious 2013 death. Johnson was found in rolled up in a gym mat with “unexplained, apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma” to his body.
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12. Massacre at Charleston's Mother Emanuel
Known as the Charleston Nine, these churchgoers were all victims of a mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC by an alleged terrorist.
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13. Antquonette Hale and Tahnaizja Smith
Sisters Hale (left) and Smith (right) were shot and killed in north St. Louis the night of the Mayweather-Pacquiao boxing match. There are few details on their deaths but it is suspected that there was a motive.
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14. Tony Robinson, Jr.
In March, an unarmed Robinson was gunned down by Madison Police Department Officer Matt Kenny during a confrontation.
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15. Walter Scott
A White South Carolina police officer was charged with murder after a video surfaced showing him fatally shooting an unarmed Scott in the back as he ran away.
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16. Zella Ziona
Ziona, a transgender woman, was targeted and murdered in an alleyway in Gaithersburg, Maryland by a masked assailant after a dispute at a nearby mall.
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17. Raynette Turner
Turner was found dead in a Westchester, NY jail cell in July after she was detained for allegedly shoplifting from a local wholesale food supplier.
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18. Latandra Ellington
Relatives spoke out to NPR News saying that they suspected Ellington was murdered by guards at Florida's Lowell Correctional Institution, as she had revealed that she was being threatened while in custody.
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19. Janiya Thomas
Thomas, only 11-years-old, is suspected of being murdered and put into a freezer by her mother. Her body was allegedly found by her grandmother and aunt. The investigation is ongoing.
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20. Keisha Jenkins
Jenkins, a transgender woman, was brutally beaten and shot twice in the back by a group of men in Philadelphia. One man was arrested while there is a $20,000 reward that has been posted for anyone who finds the other three suspects.
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