Should We Let More Prisoners Take College Classes?

By Andrea Brody Earlier this month an editorial was published in the New York Times from an unusual source. The writer was John J. Lennon, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility in New York, who’s currently serving a 28 years to

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A Success Story: Justin L. Donohue

By Justin L. Donohue  Image courtesy I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate these messages (Prison News Service). I have learned so much since I started reading them. I also wanted you to know that as

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Prison Author Under Fire: Federal Bureau of Prisons Retaliates Against Christopher Zoukis

Image courtesy Over the past month Federal Bureau of Prison officials at the Federal Correctional Institution Petersburg have issued incarcerated author Christopher Zoukis a series of incident reports in a seeming attempt to censor his critique of the prison

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MP3 Players in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

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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Practicing Religion in the Federal Bureau of Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis Any inmate who wishes to practice his or her religious tradition while confined in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is generally permitted to do so, subject to several penological restrictions. Inmates’ Right to Practice Religion The

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LGBT Month Celebrated in Federal Prison: A Validation for Lives Dismissed

By Christopher Zoukis / Huffington Post At the start of June, pink flyers announcing LGBT Month started appearing around FCI Petersburg, a medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia, where I am incarcerated. The fliers, along with many colorful postings in

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Thanks to All Loyal Prison Education News Readers

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy Middle Street Publishing I’d like to take a quick moment to thank all of you loyal Prison Education News readers who have taken the time to buy a copy of my latest text, the Directory

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The Numbers: Who’s in American Prisons, and for What Crimes?

By Christopher Zoukis   Image courtesy

American prisons are currently experiencing a shortage of space and an abundance of prisoners; in a word, overcrowding.  The United States incarcerates 25 percent of the world’s prisoners despite accounting for only 5 percent of the world’s population.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons alone is experiencing overcrowding at a rate of 40 percent in its facilities, with projections indicating this rate will continue to increase.  With this overcrowding, prisoner unrest, violence, and misconduct increase.  The system is broken, and the phrases “Prison Nation” and “Incarceration Nation” continue to become more apt every year.  Something must be done, but first, the extent of the problem must be understood.  Triage is required.

While much of this overcrowding is due to our country’s policies concerning crime control (i.e., incarceration as a solution of the first resort), a significant cause of this problem is due to recidivism — the instance of prisoners or probationers returning to criminal activities and being sanctioned for doing so.  While many understand and agree that the initial instance of crime can be reduced through stronger social and educational programs for children, we find ourselves faced with a problem of returns on our current efforts.  We must stem the blood flow of recidivism now so that the system can be patched up well enough for us to focus on future generations of children, some of whom are destined to turn to crime without reform to the services currently being provided to them.

And with this, I present the following statistics in the hopes that the extent of our broken criminal justice system problem can be realized, and solutions of the same magnitude can be envisioned:


The Current State of American Corrections

  • ·         In 2009, the U.S. prisoner population totaled 1,617,417 inmates.
  • ·         In 2010, there were 500 prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents.
  • ·         The South incarcerates the most prisoners, followed by the West, Midwest, and Northeast.
  • ·         Black males are incarcerated 6.7 times the rate of white males.
  • ·         Black men and women are significantly more likely to be incarcerated than all other races.
  • ·         Males are over 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than females.
  • ·         Federal prisons are currently operating systemwide at 140 percent of capacity.
  • ·         In 2010, 53 percent of released male prisoners recidivated.


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Courtesy of Senator Chris Murphy

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that in response to concerns that they raised over the last two months, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has now indicated that it has altered its plan to turn the only secure facility for women in the Northeast, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) at Danbury, Connecticut, into a facility for men.  BOP now intends to construct a new facility for female inmates that will be located near the FCI and maintain a satellite camp for women close by as well.   Image courtesy

“This is excellent news for the children and families of inmates in the Northeast, and we applaud the Bureau of Prisons for hearing our concerns and making this decision,” the senators said. “The original plan put forward by BOP to transfer female inmates out of Connecticut would have nearly eliminated federal prison beds for women in the Northeastern United States, dramatically disrupting the lives of these female inmates and the young children they often leave behind. We are pleased that will no longer be the case.”  

Previously, BOP had announced that it would convert the FCI from a secure facility for women into a men’s facility.  This conversion would have left one of the most populated regions of the country without a secure facility for women.  While BOP still intends to turn the existing secure facility into a men’s facility, it now intends to turn the existing minimum security Satellite Camp for women located near the FCI into a low security facility for women.  It will also maintain a minimum security camp facility for women near the new FCI by constructing a new building next to the FCI. 

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Federal Inmates Allowed To Utilize MP3 Player Service

By Christopher Zoukis

In an innovative move by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), federal inmates are now allowed to purchase MP3 players from their institution’s commissary and individual MP3 files through their housing unit’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS) computers.  This system is offered via a federal contract with Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) and has now been implemented system-wide in federal prisons.  Private contract prisons which house federal prisoners (e.g., Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group) are not included in this service’s coverage population. 

Inmates may purchase from their institution’s commissary a SanDisk 8GB Clip+ for the price of $69.20.  These MP3 players, which have been modified to not allow for voice recording or the use of the micro SD slot, hold around 1,800 songs, contain a rechargeable battery, a FM radio, a built-on plastic clip, and come equipped with earbud style headphones.  They are very small, only 2″ high x 1 1/4″ wide (Because of the compactness of the device, inmates tend to make holding cases which can be hung around their necks to ensure the safety of the device).

After purchase, inmates are allowed to activate the MP3 player on the TRULINCS computer system via their personal TRULINCS account.  Once activated, each MP3 player owner will be allowed to browse music selections for a maximum of 60 minutes per day (in 15-minute time intervals), listen to up to 30 music samples a day (in 30-second samples), save songs to their wish list for future purchase, and purchase songs.  Through this system inmates can also delete previously purchased songs and, therefore, delete them from their MP3 players.

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