OCALA, Fla. — As our Crisis in Corrections investigation continues, the ABC Action News I-Team uncovers how an inmate risked confinement by using TikTok videos to report on conditions inside Florida’s largest women’s prison.
“Hey guys this is Kay coming from Lowell CI, where the prison news of the day is as dark as black coffee,” Keiko Kopp begins each of her videos.
She is using a video kiosk to create videos reporting recent happenings inside Lowell Correctional Institution.
“I want to create awareness. People have no idea what’s going on in here,” Kopp said in one video post.
More than 5 million views
Since starting her posts in late summer on a channel called @Kay_Livenews, Kopp has amassed more than 156,000 followers and her videos have received more than 5 million views.
“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 her first post.
Her mother Kathy Moyer shares the recorded messages on TikTok on her behalf.
“This is bigger than I imagined,” Moyer said.
She said her daughter’s posts are already getting noticed by prison officials and lawmakers.
“They’re worried about something,” she said.
Kopp is a single mother of four.
She was sentenced to three years for trafficking drugs after she was convicted last December.
Kopp began serving her sentence at Lowell Correctional Institution in January while pregnant with her fifth child.
It's the only facility in the Florida Department of Corrections prison system that serves pregnant inmates.
“Some of the guards have said stuff to her… ‘TikTok queen’ or they say ‘the day is as dark as black coffee,’” Moyer said.
Kopp uses her video posts to report on conditions inside the prison.
“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 a post.
“She’s there. She sees it. She’s a righteous kind of person. If somebody’s doing something, she’s gonna speak up,” Moyer said.
Fights, COVID, an overdose and an inmate with dementia
Kopp reported on poor COVID protocols, saying in August her dorm was under quarantine, but inmates did not have the resources to protect themselves against being infected with COVID-19.
“We have no way to social distance. We have no access to medicine. So please just keep us in your prayers,” Kopp said in a post, after announcing that several guards and dozens of inmates had contracted the virus.
She reported a drug overdose at Lowell.
“So I was informed that a woman was just taken to the hospital unresponsive for a drug overdose,” Kopp said in a video.
She said the inmate was given Narcan by prison staff, but her condition did not appear to improve before she was transported to a hospital.
Kopp also described an inmate-on-inmate assault.
“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,” she said.
“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,” Moyer said.
Kopp described how elderly, disabled inmates struggle at Lowell.
“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.
We reviewed prison data and found a woman with a German name who will turn 90 in April is currently housed at Lowell.
That inmate, convicted of multiple felony fraud counts, is scheduled to be released the day before her 98th birthday.
Kopp’s most personal post describes losing her baby after a high-risk pregnancy.
Her child, who she named Raven, was diagnosed in the womb with anencephaly, a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without part of a brain and skull. That condition leads to early death.
But Kopp said even though her daughter was given no chance of survival, she wasn’t provided with supplemental nutrition, vitamins and other prenatal care in prison.
“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," Kopp said.
In September, Moyer got a letter from the prison telling her that posting the videos violated Florida Department of Corrections policy.
“I’m not saying that DeSantis knows about it, but it’s on his letterhead,” Moyer said.
The letter ordered her to stop posting videos or face a suspension of visiting privileges.
Kopp also said she was threatened.
“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,” she 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,” Moyer said.
We contacted the Florida Department of Corrections.
A spokesperson sent the following emailed statement:
“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: dc.state.fl.us.
It is a violation of Department policy to conduct any business while incarcerated (per Florida Administrative Code 33-602.207).
Additionally, it is a violation to record during video visits (per Florida Administrative Code 33-602.901 ).
Discipline for violations of Department Policy are dictated per Florida Administrative Code 33-601.301 and 33-601.314”
Florida Department of Corrections responds
In a subsequent email, a department spokesperson addressed some of the general allegations raised in Kopp’s videos.
Here’s the statement:
“The Florida Department of Corrections is committed to providing for the safety and wellbeing of all inmates in FDC’s custody. Ensuring inmates incarcerated in Florida’s prisons receive all necessary medical treatment in line with evolving national standards is one of FDC’s top priorities, and a core constitutional responsibility.
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.
As the health care provider for inmates, FDC is 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 below.
FDC’s grievance process is robust and has numerous checks to ensure that inmates have several pathways to report incidents. Grievance types and procedures are thoroughly explained to every inmate during the reception process and additional guidance is provided by an inmate’s assigned classification officer as needed. The FDC grievance process and an anonymous TIPS line that contacts the Office of the Inspector General directly provide inmates every opportunity to report misconduct without fear of retribution.”
Recently, Kopp was granted a request to transfer to another prison closer to her mother’s home.
“People need to know. This place cannot keep running like this,” Kopp said in her last posted video.
“Everybody has to care about this. Those people are gonna get out,” Moyer said.
If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at email@example.com.