“Party in my holding cell later!”
Though that sounds more like a joke than something you’d actually expect to hear in prison, a recent Tennessee investigation reveals that some inmates are living it up behind bars.
The investigation, conducted by NBC Nashville affiliate WSMV, shows over 100 inmates in a Tennessee prison using cell phones and Facebook, doing drugs, flaunting money, making music, getting tattoos, and eating like kings.
"Between me and you, this s--- ain't half bad," one inmate says.
“This is the penitentiary right here. Back in here relaxing, you know what I’m talking about?” another says.
Other inmates brag that they’ve collected over $1,000 from various schemes while in prison. Many of the prisoners' activities were discovered through Facebook. A current loophole in Tennessee law forbids prisoners from bringing a cell phone with them on their little vacations, but it does not forbid cell phone use once incarcerated. The inmates were using these phones to post pictures and videos of their activities on Facebook.
As expected, many people are furious about what’s going on in the prisons.
Verna Watt, executive director of the crime victim advocacy group Tennessee Voices for Victims, empathizes with people’s frustrated reaction.
“Anyone who sees those videos, they're going to be sickened by it” she said. “They're going to be angry.”
West Tennessee District Attorney Mike Dunavant is calling for some major legislative changes in light of the investigation’s findings.
“It's certainly offensive to victims of crime and to citizens of this state who really expect inmates will not have access to the Internet, not have the luxuries of Facebook as we have,” Dunavant said.
Dunavant believes the loophole allowing cell phone use in prison needs to be closed. He also is calling for stricter screening of prison visitors and installation of a cell phone signal blocking device. Dunavant hopes to have a proposal with these changes ready for Tennessee legislators by January.
The Tennessee Department of Corrections says disciplinary action will be taken against all inmates who took part in the illegal activities. Over 70 inmates from 14 prisons in the state have already been punished.