by Ashleigh Dye
“Hey guys, this is Kay coming from Lowell CI, where the day is as dark as black coffee.”
So begins each video in a series recorded by a woman while she was incarcerated at Lowell Correctional Institution in Florida in 2021, which were then posted to the social media platform TikTok. In the very first one, the prisoner, Keiko Kopp, revealed how she did it.
“I wanted to go ahead and answer some questions,” she said, staring into the camera. “I am an inmate in Florida. This is a 30-second recorded video. It costs two dollars to send. My family is posting for me.”
Kopp was sentenced to three years for drug trafficking. She was sent to Lowell because she was pregnant, and it is the only state prison that houses expectant prisoners. The child she bore there in September 2021, Raven, was diagnosed in utero with anencephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born without part of the skull and brain. Kopp lost the child—her fifth—an hour after giving birth, and she said that during her pregnancy she did not receive any prenatal care or supplements.
That is one of many problems inside the prison she wanted her videos to expose. Before she was transferred to another state prison nearer her mother, Kopp’s TikTok channel had garnered over 153,000 followers and 8 million views of videos in which she addressed drug overdoses, prisoner fights, and the struggles elderly prisoners face.
“There’s 90-year-old woman,” Kopp announced in one video. “There is a woman who is completely blind. There is a woman with dementia who thinks she’s in Germany and doesn't speak English. And they’re in here helpless.”
The videos also got the attention of prison officials. Though some guards took it lightly, jokingly calling her “TikTok Queen,” a September 2021 letter from the state Department of Corrections to her mother, Kathy Moyer, betrayed much less good humor, threatening to cut off video visitation pursuant to Florida Administrative Code Ch. 33-602.91 for “relaying, re-streaming or broadcasting through any medium.”
“I’m not saying [GOP Gov. Ron] DeSantis knows about it,” Moyer said, “but it is on his letterhead.”
Before Kopp was transferred from Lowell, she posted one last video in October 2021, in which she said, “People need to know. This place cannot keep running like this.”
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