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Oregon Inmates Enjoy Flat-Screen TVs

A torturer's tool with limitless possibilities, now available for your very own cell.
Ore. Inmates Enjoy New Flat-Screen TVs

Monday May 3, 2004 8:01 AM


By ANDREW KRAMER

Associated Press Writer

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Convicted felon Nicholas Krahmer kicks back on a bunk and enjoys one of the latest perks of prison life: A spanking new flat-screen TV that's still the envy of many viewers on the outside.

The tiny 7-inch set resembles flat-screen models installed in cars or on airplane seats. But it beats the alternative, he says - a night in the recreation room with about 150 other inmates who are prone to brawls over what to watch and where to sit.

Oregon's in-cell television policy springs from years of frustration in finding incentives for good behavior among prisoners serving mandatory sentences.

Krahmer bought the $300 television with money he earned working in prison, where he is paid a few dollars a day for computer drafting. Inmates also must have clean discipline records to qualify for the flat-screens.

``I've worked for it. I've stayed clear of any sort of nonsense in the institution,'' said Krahmer, 27, who is serving 70 months at Oregon State Correctional Institution, outside Salem, for assault with a knife.

``I've never seen an episode of 'Survivor.' I'm eager to watch that. I want to see what my family watches.''

Randy Geer, administrator of the prisons' non-cash incentive programs, said that as far as he knows, Oregon is the only state where felons have flat-screen TVs in their cells. The 25 inmates who have bought the high-tech TVs get the same basic cable that's piped into the prison's common TV room.

Before the flat-screen program began in Krahmer's prison last month, Oregon was already one of 16 states in the country to allow in-cell televisions.

But most inmates in the state's 12 medium and maximum security prisons did not benefit: Only one of those prisons allowed personal TVs, and they were of the traditional tube variety, not flat-screens.

While allowing inmates to enjoy the latest high-tech gadgetry may seem odd, prison officials stress the flat-screens - which the state plans to introduce soon in all 12 of its higher security prisons - were selected for practical reasons.

Bulky tube televisions pose dangers, such as parts that could be used as a weapon, and hollow spaces that could serve as a hiding place for contraband, Geer said.

Flat-screen TVs used at the Oregon prison are made of clear plastic - so inmates cannot hide contraband inside.

Managers also considered cramped prison cells and decided the sleek, flat-screen models made sense.

``It was really the best solution,'' Geer said. ``It is not a luxury item.''

Before implementing the policy, Oregon officials questioned prison directors about television policy in all 50 states. Some states have decided to prohibit TVs in cells because the traditional tube models are too bulky. If a prisoner is sent to disciplinary confinement, the prison must store his or her belongings.

``Try finding space for 1,000 13-inch televisions,'' Geer said.

Steve Doell, president of the Oregon chapter of Crime Victims United, opposes television in prison for anything other than educational programming and to ease the work of correctional staff in disciplining inmates.

``If I were in charge, I would make sure they watch the Learning Channel, Discovery and C-Span,'' he said. ``There's lots of movies and entertainment that show violence and sexual behavior.''

Rank and file officers, however, are nearly as happy as the inmates.

``It's cut down on the number of inmates that come out in the evening to watch TV,'' said Julian Ruiz, a corrections officer who operates electronic door locks and monitors a cell block. ``The more people you get down here in the evening, the more problems.''

In the common TV room, each cell with two inmates is given a night to choose what to watch, and the honor rotates in strict order, Ruiz said. Prison staff intercede only to ensure major television events are shown, such as the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball championships and the World Series. There is little interest in presidential addresses or other news, Ruiz said.

``If you ask, 'who wants to watch Bill Moyers?' one hand goes up, maybe. You ask about football, 100 hands go up,'' he said.







Guardian Unlimited
cons get cable? 03.May.2004 11:21

whoa.

i can't afford cable tv on the outside. since i am a media activist in dire need of the ability to record certain programming on television (i.e. george w. bush 'news conferences' and states of the union and other pro-empire and war speeches) perhaps i should become a bitch for an oregon inmate in exchange for some cable broadcast recordings.

on the other hand, aren't there a bunch of 'anarchists' and other political prisoners in the pen in salem? maybe i should ask one or two of them to record tapes for me... do inmates get vcrs?

wonderful 03.May.2004 11:36

Seatac Reader

Con's getting Tv's

How about they read a book instead? maybe attempt to learn something instead of frying their brains on the pre-digested pap that is spewed by Network TV?

Naw, that requires effort on someone's part. Easier to keep them tranquilized on National TV.

keep in mind 03.May.2004 11:57

White Lilac

that this guy paid for his TV by working long hours for a few bucks a day. Your tax dollars only paid for the tv in the lounge.

Reading might sound great if you're an authoritarian teacher, seatec reader, with preconceived ideas about what one should be learning and how one should spend his/her time, but I know several people in prison who have trouble reading letters from home (if they ever come), never mind something that 'requires effort' (das kapital? les misÚrables? would the oregonian be OK?).

Give these guys (and women, when this trickles down to them) a fucking break. I don't own a tv but hell i'd work for one if I were doing some punitive mandatory minimum.

You have to give credit to the brilliance of this ... make people work for peanuts to buy their own virtual chain. Its beautiful, in a very sick way.

The chain is essential 03.May.2004 12:22

anne frank

and that's the reason the inmates are getting the opportunity to buy television. It is the ultimate tool of oppression, and I can only quess at the din multiple televisons blabbing makes in the prison; like bedlam with Oprah.

they deserve more 03.May.2004 13:14

some bad some good

largely society failure for people failure.

they deserve more than tv.

Advantages of FS TV 03.May.2004 18:56

Sister Katie! :)

> Flat-screen TVs used at the Oregon prison are made of clear plastic - so inmates cannot hide contraband inside.

Also: Regular TV tube can be smashed and turned into a weapon.


> Managers also considered cramped prison cells and decided the sleek, flat-screen models made sense.

Also: eventually each cell can be outfitted with flat screens securely attached to walls.


Cable TV is necessary also for security reasons, for rabbit ears can be used as weapons. Those who complain about inmates watching movies, remember that C-SPAN, Learning Channel, History Channel, etc. are also available only on cable or satellite.

Dittoheads still here?? 04.May.2004 13:18

Varro

Well, let me say that I would support Rush-Rush getting a TV in his cell when he gets sent to prison for doctor-shopping for the hillbilly heroin....oh, I'm sorry, prison is only for POOR people who get caught with drugs...

Who are you kidding! 04.May.2004 14:18

Seatac Reader

Quote:
remember that C-SPAN, Learning Channel, History Channel, etc. are also available only on cable or satellite. Unquote.

You honestly think those channels are going to get used in prison? They're not going to even be touched. I've seen what they watch in prison (I used to take books to a prison in Kentucky when I worked for U of L) and it's not C-span or the History Channel. More like ESPN and the Entertainment network (and we all know what fine quality programming they turn out).

Quote:

Give these guys (and women, when this trickles down to them) a ------- break. I don't own a tv but hell i'd work for one if I were doing some punitive mandatory minimum. Unquote.

No, i'm not going to give them a break. They have the chance to make something of themselves. but if they choose to waste away in front of the idiot box, then they deserve what they get when they get out i.e. "you want fries with that?"

Besides, whoever said prison needed to be an easy or pleasant experience? It should be an unpleasant place SO YOU DON'T WANT TO RETURN. I'm not saying floggings or the like. But we have become so integrated with the idiot box as a society that the thought of having it taken away would be incentive enough for many not to do the crime to get locked up.

These people have a chance to improve their minds, get some education and possibly a degree for if/when they get out. The door is there, they just need to open it.

Like you, I don't even own a TV. I'm just plain disgusted with them.

What are you smoking? 04.May.2004 16:26

Dance

The article said they have "basic cable". That does not include the History or Learning channels. So whether many, a few, or no inmates would watch those channels is irrelevant at this point.

Seatac Reader says, "These people have a chance to improve their minds, get some education and possibly a degree for if/when they get out. The door is there, they just need to open it."
How do you know the door is there? Are you speaking about OSCI - the specific institution that the article is about? Do you actually think prisons are designed for rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation was a reform concept that came along only a few decades ago. And the modicum of attention and loads of lip-service given to the purpose of prisons as being for rehabilitation is largely gone. They're now promoted as punishment (not even much made of the old spiritual notion of "penitent" any more).

Prisons are designed and operated to appease the public and to benefit those that gain from them financially. Most prison inmates need education, encouragement, and to be taught self-discipline - the same things that would have kept many of them out of prison if our society rationally provided support and services to children and parents. They need to learn the skills and to recognize their opportunities so they HAVE positive choices and are able to choose them over anti-social behavior. Using prisons as tools of FEAR to intimidate those who have few choices and can't see or negotiate the choices they have is not very effective rehabilitation.

Where fear-based imprisonment probably WOULD work is if used on the people that SHOULD be in prison (i.e., people with great authority who use it improperly to gain immense power or monies). People who already possess skills, social acumen, and authority in society COULD be intimidated into avoiding anti-social choices. However, fear often isn't effective with them because they know that even if their unethical behavior is illegal (it often isn't), and they're caught (unlikely given the little spent on investigating white collar crime) they can probably buy their way out of much punishment or even recompense. In their worst case scenario, they're still not likely to have to do hard time in maximum security. THEY are the ones who go to the "country club" prisons.

Seatac Reader, please provide us with more information at to what opportunities are available to inmates at OSCI or elsewhere, the basis of your information, and what we can do to spread that information to inmates and encourage them to avail themselves of it.

Don't be sanctimonious 04.May.2004 19:35

been there

Many of the people in prison are exactly you and me. They like to smoke pot, or enjoy a hit of cocaine but they got busted. You might not like tv, but you don't know how long the days and nights are in prison and even network tv is better than nothing or the crap that gets shown in the commons tv. So count your blessings if you are on the outside where you can have a drink or smoke a bowl. Your peers inside have it pretty damn bleak and you could be there so fast you can't believe it and you too will be blessed to have a little 7 inch screen to watch.