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Florida inmate uses TikTok videos to draw attention to prison issues

Florida inmate uses TikTok videos to draw attention to prison issues
‘What is going on here, we’re turning into animals. We’re being warehoused. They are bringing out the worst side of us,’ prisoner says

An inmate in Florida is using TikTok to speak about prison issues, including how she lost a child after being denied medical care.

Keiko Kopp, known on the social media platform as Kay, has said that she has risked confinement by speaking out about the conditions at Lowell Correctional Institution, the largest women’s prison in the state, WFTS reported.

“Hey guys this is Kay coming from Lowell CI, where the prison news of the day is as dark as black coffee,” she begins several of her videos, one of which has reached almost 800,000 views.

Using a video kiosk from within the prison, she reports on what happens inside as she serves her sentence.

“I want to create awareness. People have no idea what’s going on in here,” Kopp said in another video. She has managed to get more than 157,000 followers on the app. Her videos have in total been viewed more than five million times.

“I wanted to go ahead and answer some questions. I am an inmate in Florida. This is a 30 second recorded video. It cost $2 to send. My family is posting for me,” she said in one video.

Her mother, Kathy Moyer, who posts the videos, told WFTS that “this is bigger than I imagined”.

She said prison officials and legislators have noticed the videos, saying that “they’re worried about something”.

Kopp, a single mother with four children, was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of drug trafficking in December of last year. She was pregnant with her fifth child when she started serving her term in prison in January.

Lowell Correctional Institution is the only prison that holds pregnant women in the Florida Department of Corrections.

“Some of the guards have said stuff to her… ‘TikTok queen’ or they say ‘the day is as dark as black coffee,’” Ms Moyer told the local TV station.

“What is going on here, we’re turning into animals. We’re being warehoused. They are bringing out the worst side of us,” Kopp said in one video posted on the app.

“She’s there. She sees it. She’s a righteous kind of person. If somebody’s doing something, she’s gonna speak up,” her mother said.

In August, Kopp reported on inadequate conditions to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. She said in one video that several guards and dozens of inmates had been infected.

“We have no way to social distance. We have no access to medicine. So please just keep us in your prayers,” she said.

She has also reported instances of drug overdoses and assaults.

“This past weekend, a woman was brutally attacked by another inmate. The victim was riddled in bite marks all over the body. And a large bottom section of her ear was completely bitten off,” Kopp said in a video.

“The people that have been in there since they were 17, 20, 25 and now are 40, 50 … they’re angry because they haven’t been taught how to grow up and mature,” Ms Moyer told WFTS.

“There’s 90-year-old women. There is a woman that is completely blind. There is a woman with dementia who thinks she’s in Germany and doesn’t speak English. And they’re in there helpless,” Kopp said a broadcast from the prison.

While pregnant with her last child Raven, the baby was diagnosed with a birth defect in the womb leading to the baby being born without parts of the skull and brain.

Kopp said she was denied care.

“Just an hour after my baby was born, she died in my arms. We may not be able to change what I suffered, but hopefully what I’m about to tell you will change things for others,” she said.

In a September letter, Ms Moyer was told that posting the videos violated the policy of the Florida Department of Corrections. The letter said she would be denied visits to her daughter if she didn’t stop posting the videos. Kopp also revealed threats against her.

“The administration has just threatened me with confinement for speaking out to the public and government officials about what’s going on here. I’m not gonna stop and you deserve to know,” Kopp said.

“She told me before that when she got in trouble, she said it would be worth it. She said I could do six months in lock-up if there was actual change,” Ms Moyer added.

“The Florida Department of Corrections is committed to providing for the safety and wellbeing of all inmates in FDC’s custody,” the department told WFTS in an email.

“Female inmates are provided medical services and products at no cost. The amount and frequency of distribution varies by institution based on the brand and packaging used at each institution. More are issued by the institution to inmates if needed.”

The department added that they are “prohibited from releasing information that could lead to the identity of an inmate or disclose the inmate’s protected health information to the public, therefore we are not able to speak on the specific claims”.

They also said that the “grievance process is robust and has numerous checks to ensure that inmates have several pathways to report incidents”.

In a previous email, the department said that “inmates’ first amendment rights may be exercised through their ability to regularly communicate with legal representatives, family, friends, etc through an array of established and easily accessible methods”.

“It is a violation to record during video visits,” the department added.