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.


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.


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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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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