MCCORMICK, S.C. — Convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh is serving out a double life sentence at a South Carolina prison. The disgraced lawyer was convicted of murder in March of this year for the shootings of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. Hours ago, pictures began circulating online, showing what seems to be selfies Murdaugh has taken while in prison.
The images have generated lots of online conversation, with people wondering where these pictures came from. Is it contraband? Is it legal? Is it really Murdaugh?
News 19 went searching for answers and found that yes, it’s totally legal. In fact, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) tells us it’s a service given to all inmates.
The pictures of Murdaugh were released after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed, which provides the public the right to request access to federal agency records. The SCDC tells News 19 that every inmate is issued a tablet, which they can use to make monitored telephone calls, take classes, read books, subscribe to entertainment that is pre-approved and receive messages from the institution. The department says they are not connected to the internet or to social media.
These tablets are from ViaPath Technologies, the department’s telephone partner, formerly called GTL. According to a statement from the company, it serves more than 2,100 facilities and over 1.6 million inmates in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The company says its products have been used in 32 state Department of Corrections agencies, including here in South Carolina. It’s estimated that inmates have accessed nearly 5 million e-learning hours since the company started in October 2021.
It was first introduced to South Carolina in January 2019. SCDC says the tablets were "particularly valuable during the COVID shutdown, when programming was paused because of the pandemic. Inmates could still use their tablets for educational classes, reading, pre-approved entertainment, etc."
In the pictures, Murdaugh can be seen in a variety of different locations, including what seems to be inside his cell. News 19 asked SCDC about this.
The agency says tablets are assigned to the inmate and kept in their individual cells, which allows them to make private phone calls to families, read and otherwise utilize the features.
When an inmate signs on to the tablet, "...the service used the inmate’s face as identification. It took a snapshot of the inmate as part of this process," SCDC clarified.
This means that according to SCDC, Murdaugh did not take those pictures, but instead they were taken automatically while he was utilizing it.
SCDC tells News 19 that all content on the tablets are monitored. Inmates without good behavior can lose privileges to the device, which is funded via subscription plans purchased by the inmates friends or family.
We did reach out to Murdaugh’s legal team, but did not get a response back as of the time of this report.