Cruel & Unusual in Nikki Haley Land

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Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.30.07 AMThe Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbids cruel and unusual punishment.  Someone needs to explain this to the state of South Carolina.  If a prisoner uses social media, they get “X” number of days in solitary confinement.  Currently the state has so many people in solitary confinement they’re trying to seek alternative ways to impose this cruel and unusual punishment.  Today’s version of solitary confinement is a soul eating, brain killing monster that harkens back to the days of abject horror, like the scene in the movie Ben-Hur, where Judah Ben Hur’s mother and sister have been confined to prison for so long, no one even know if they are dead or alive, or where they are.  They are confined to a life of pure filth and mind-numbing emptiness.  That’s just about what today’s version of solitary confinement is, minus the filth and leprosy.

Evidently, Facebook is going along with this, making it easier for prison officials to find out if a person has been online.  I can see keeping a person off-line as part of their punishment.  I can see not allowing them access to social media.  But you don’t put them in solitary confinement for eternity.

“…South Carolina may be unique only in the frequency and severity with which it enforces social media punishments. In New Mexico, an inmate was sentenced to 60 days in solitary confinement after his family members accessed Facebook on his behalf. In Alabama, a law was recently passed to make it a misdemeanor to serve as a go-between for an inmate who wants to post information to the Internet.

These policies have not gone unchallenged. An Arizona law forbidding inmates from accessing the Internet through a third party was struck down as unconstitutional. The Florida Department of Corrections backtracked on a policy proposal similar to South Carolina’s after the Florida Justice Institute and other civil liberties groups threatened litigation [PDF]. Just last week, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit alleging First Amendment violations when prison officials punished an inmate after his sister launched a social media campaign to get him freed.

SCDC has set up a system that allows prison administrators to hold inmates longer, in harsher conditions, and to largely cut them off from the rest of the world. South Carolinians should demand an immediate review of how this policy is applied.

We’re also calling on Facebook to embrace the position that inmate communication often has public value, such as when inmates raise issues about possibly unconstitutional prison conditions and other irregularities in the criminal justice system….”

San Quentin Prisoners in a group setting environment
San Quentin Prisoners in a group setting environment

Why do people in prisons have access to go online, anyway?  As someone who has been stalked, in the past, I would not want the person who stalked me to have access to go online. Why not just use a little common sense?

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation

People in prison should NOT have access to social media.  But – there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this.

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