Being punished for accessing Facebook is nothing new — it’s just typically grounded pre-teens who face the wrath of their parents, not an inmate at a state correctional facility. In South Carolina, one inmate just received 37 years — years — in solitary confinement for posting how much he missed his family. In addition to the alone time, the inmate in question, Tyheem Henry, also lost double that time (74 years) of canteen (inside marketplace for snacks and such), phone, and visitation privileges.
The long-term stay in solitary is due to Henry’s 38 Facebook posts, each of which is considered a separate offense. In researching the case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found Henry wasn’t the only one finding stiff punishment for social media activity. In June of last year, a man received nearly 35 years in solitary. A month before, another inmate received nearly 25 years in lockdown.
The EFF also takes issue with the treatment of these social check-ins, which are all deemed Level One offenses by the South Carolina Department of Corrections. In their report, the EFF outlined some startling facts:
In other words, if a South Carolina inmate caused a riot, took three hostages, murdered them, stole their clothes and then escaped, he could still wind up with fewer level-one offenses than an inmate who updated Facebook every day for two weeks.
So extreme is the application of this policy that SCDC is forced to regularly suspend solitary-confinement sentences because of a lack of space in disciplinary segregation. In many cases, the punishments associated with using social media are so unnecessarily long that inmates will never actually serve them since they exceed their underlying prison sentences.
In Henry’s situation, he’s in jail for a pretty good reason (he beat a guy to within an inch of his life). Henry also received 15 years for his initial offense. In context, that means his Facebook posts are worth more time than a pretty serious assault in South Carolina.