Live 5 Investigates: Solitary for social media

Inmates get solitary confinement for being on social media
Published: Jul. 25, 2018 at 9:16 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2018 at 4:59 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Inmates like Derrick Williams, Jason Mathis, Jamaal Mack and Jose Rivera are all serving years in South Carolina prisons for crimes ranging from drug dealing to weapons charges.

They are also among the hundreds who are sent to solitary confinement while in prison, NOT for fighting or drugs, but for being active on social media.

Prisoners are forbidden from having cell phones or engaging in social media while incarcerated.

Making possession of illegal contraband like cell phones a level one infraction.

"My goal is not to put anyone in solitary," said South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling. "But we have some folks who are just so dangerous and they've done such heinous things in here we have no options with our staffing levels but to keep them in here a lengthy period of time."

SCDC has investigators constantly search for inmates with social media accounts.

They find plenty of inmates posing for pictures in their cells with weapons, drugs, cell phones and even cash.

One convicted sex offender, serving a 25 year sentence for kidnapping, was discovered friending young females while locked up.

Another used Facebook to warn other inmates that the search team was on the way to their cell block.

Stirling says it's all happening because of cell phones.

"Somebody may think its just a cellphone it's no big deal," he said."Well I look at that as being no different than a weapon in an inmates hand."

Georgetown Attorney Ed Bell represents inmates who tell him the problem is much bigger than cell phones and social media accounts.

"How is it that until recently those cell phones were caught and collected but they kept getting back into the system...the guards," Bell said.

Bell says he gets stacks of letters every day from inmates.

Some, he says are placed in solitary for their own safety. Others have had to use their illegal cell phones to call for help.

One inmate says he called 911 because inmates with knives were standing outside of his cell.

"He's on his cell phone from his cell on 911 talking to [the prison guard]. I can't make this stuff up guys," Bell continued. "I would never suggest that Director Stirling spend a night in prison...but he might learn something."

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