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Mary Ann Chastain/AP

Prisons Concerned About Digital TV Switchover

September 08, 2008 12:42 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the country changes over from analog to digital television, prison officials are hustling to ensure that their inmates don’t lose access to broadcast television.

TV Switch to Affect Prisons Nationwide

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Prisoners don’t qualify for government coupons that can be redeemed for converter boxes that enable old television sets to display digital signals. All U.S. analog television broadcasts will switch digital signals on February 17.

Many states’ prison systems have not figured out how many converters they will need, and at what cost. In Ohio, where there are about 50,000 inmates, the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is studying the costs involved and how to ensure that they get access to appropriate stations for the inmates.

Opinion & Analysis: Experts say TV keeps inmates peaceful

Scientific evidence shows that TV is good for prisoners, according to Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist and prison expert at the University of California, Berkeley. “You don’t want to be managing prisoners who have nothing to lose,” Kupers said to the Associated Press.

“While TV might seem like an undeserved luxury for inmates, prison officials and inmates say the tube does more than fill year after year of idle hours—it provides a sense of normalcy and is a bargaining chip that encourages good behavior,” reports the AP.

“There are some things on television that are educational,” said Andrea Carson, an Ohio Department spokeswoman, and “it adds to their social adjustment. It keeps them in tune with current events. There’s more going on in their world than what’s going on in the prison environment.”

In Maryland, where inmates in three towns near Hagerstown are to gain access to satellite television this fall, a prison official says that inmates are more inclined to stay in their cells when they have more variety of TV programming, reducing gang violence.

Related Topic: ‘Make Way for New Digital TVs by Recycling the Old’

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