Entertainment in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis

The Federal Bureau of Prisons provides inmates with a number of avenues of entertainment.  These avenues include personal FM radios, community televisions, personal MP3 players, and institutional movies.  These forms of entertainment are offered in an effort to reduce inmate idleness and the ills that come along with it.

Radios

Personal FM/AM radios have been a mainstay of prison culture for decades.  Available for purchase through institutional commissaries at a price of around $40, most inmates purchase one.  These radios are of the Walkman-variety, operate on two or three batteries, and are required to listen to the televisions in the inmate housing units.

TVs

Inmates incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons are not permitted to purchase personal televisions, instead they are allowed to utilize communal TVs in inmate housing units and, at some federal prisons, in recreation departments.  Most of these televisions are usually mounted high up on support beams so that they cannot easily be tampered with, and programming can either be determined by majority vote or by the prison’s administration.  The external speakers are removed from these TVs, and FM modulators are connected to them.  Thus, inmates must purchase personal radios and tune these radios into specific FM frequencies in order to hear programming.  There are usually several such communal televisions in each housing unit, and each one is set to a specific type of programming (e.g., movies, news, sports, Spanish stations, etc.).

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MP3 Players in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy tigerdirect.com

Federal prison inmates are now allowed to utilize a MP3 player service.  This service, operated through all Federal Bureau of Prisons’ institutional commissaries and the use of the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS), allows inmates to purchase 8 gigabyte MP3 players for $69 and individual songs for between $0.85 and $1.55 each.

This article explain the various components of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ MP3 player service, how inmates utilize the system, and the various components involved.

Purchasing the MP3 Player

While local policies vary, inmates in the Federal Bureau of Prisons are allowed to shop at the prison’s commissary several times a month (most federal prisons allow inmates to shop either once every week or biweekly).  They are allowed to spend $320 per month on foods, drinks, clothing, snacks, candies, shoes, and electronics.  Certain items, such as over-the-counter medications, postage stamps, and copy cards are exempt from this spending limit.

While federal prison inmates have been allowed to purchase walkman-style FM radios for many decades, they are now allowed to purchase 8 gigabyte SanDisk MP3 players for $69.  These players hold around 2,100 songs, which can be purchased through the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS).  They also have FM radio functionality.

Once an inmate purchases an MP3 player, they have to wait one hour, then they can connect the device to a TRULINCS computer in their housing unit and activate it.  At that point, they can browse the library of songs available for purchase and make purchases.

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