Guantanamo Bay prisoners clamor for more 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2012 12:05 p.m. MDT

Last week the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg delivered surprising insight into the lives of the 168 captives being held in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay: While Harry Potter books and “Cosby Show” episodes once were the most sought-after items in the prison’s library, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — an NBC comedy starring Will Smith that debuted in 1990 — has eclipsed the boy wizard and Bill Cosby as the hottest brand in a Guantanamo Bay library that includes more than 28,000 books, videos and DVDs.

According to Rosenberg, the prison librarian "offered no explanation for the sudden popularity of the half-hour sit-com about an inner-city Philadelphia kid who moves in with his affluent cousins in California beyond the observation that comedy is widely popular among requested items."

Prisoner access to "Fresh Prince" episodes is determined by security level:

“Cooperative captives, who make up the majority of the prisoners, can watch the show communally in their medium security lock-ups, pretty much around the clock. They're in cell blocks of up to 20 men equipped with a flat-screen television bolted to the wall inside a plexiglass box.”

“A maximum security captive, who represents about 15 percent of the population, can watch the show alone for perhaps an hour or two a day. He gets a special solo cell … that lets him watch from a recliner, with one ankle shackled to a bolt on the floor.”

New York Magazine’s Dan Amira adroitly highlighted several similarities between typical Guantanamo detainees, and Smith’s character in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”:

Both the prisoners and Will have had their lives flipped, turned upside down

Both were relocated far from home after getting into one little fight/jihad

Both Will and the prisoners are in a constant struggle to free themselves from under the thumb of a controlling uncle (Uncle Phil/Uncle Sam)

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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