By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
On a Hip Hop site which regularly features public fighting captured on video, music videos, and aggregate news content, a fight between two Alabama prison inmates can be viewed. It has already been seen by almost a million users and counting.
The 33-second video uploaded on November 12, 2016, by an individual using the name JaNay, captures a fight between a black inmate and a white inmate at an Alabama Correctional facility. The fighters are being cheered on by about half-a-dozen men, in what appears to be a TV room. The black inmate pummels the white inmate to the floor and then, in WWE parlance, lands a “Flying Elbow Drop.”
Clearly visible on the men’s white prison uniforms are the words Alabama Department of Corrections. Beyond the raw violence is the fact that an inmate is in possession of a cell phone with internet capacity to film and upload the video to the website, World Star Hip Hop.
Founded in 2005, World Star Hip Hop owner, Lee “Q” O’Denat, refers to it as the “CNN of the ghetto.” Voted by BET as the “top hip hop and urban culture website” for three years in a row, beginning in 2012, it offers a mixture of sex, violence, and things related to Hip Hop culture.
Under Alabama Code 14-11-50 (2012), it is a Class C felony for inmates to possess a cell phone, wireless communication device or computer. Likewise, it is also a Class C felony for a person to possess with the intent to deliver or to deliver such devices to inmates.
However, enforcing these statutes is becoming increasingly more difficult as the rewards for owning a cell phone in prison outweighs the risk. As one of the commenters on World Star Hip Hop observed, “A phone is more important than food in the joint.” Another commented on the ease of owning a phone in prison, “Inmates be having cell phones and sh**….my brother had a cell his whole 10-year bid he just came home …but they took it .. he would get another one $400 you get a basic phone ….some jails have internet too.”
Like the inmates watching the beat-down, the message board was more cheer squad than critic, and most were familiar with prison culture. “Jail ain’t no joke. Go in with the mentality of kill or be killed death before dishonor,” wrote a man identified as Ls_G.
It is rumored Governor Robert Bentley is planning to call a Special Session of the Legislature in January to push for up to one billion dollars in bonds to build new State prisons.
The 33-second video on World Star Hip Hop would seem to indicate that the problems facing the State’s correctional facilities is beyond new prisons its about enforcing the law inside.