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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