View Full Version : Working out in Prison - Free weights and inmates

02-21-2003, 02:20 PM
Fit in Prison? Pumping Iron on The Mainline

Fitness : Fitness Articles

Pumping iron traditionally was a way inmates passed. time, relieved stress and anxiety, and improved their self image. Prisoners in the general population were allowed access to all manner of weight lifting equipment. Prison administrators felt that lifting had positive benefits, not only to individual prisoners, but to the rehabilitation process as a whole. "The official position of the National Correctional Recreation Association is that weight lifting programs are an integral part of rehabilitation services within the spectrum of corrections. Properly administered, weight lifting programs are a vital tool in the daily management of a volatile environment as well as a potentially cost-effective measure."

In the early 90’s prisons emerged as a growth industry and the emphasis within the prison industry shifted from rehabilitation to warehousing. Mike Arra, public affairs administrator of the Arizona Department of Correction, said, "The public said they saw inmates going in bad and coming out bigger and badder." Arizona was the first state to completely remove all weightlifting equipment from its prisons. The public perception was that prisoners have all these "free time" and state-funded "fitness clubs" at their disposal. The political mood was to crack down on crime, lock people up, and make life tougher inside prison walls. Timothy Flanagan, dean of the college of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University in Texas, says, "The people who are in charge of running prisons have a much more practical view of the importance of amenities than outsiders, especially politicians. There clearly is a problem with public perception of prison life."

According to, a site sponsored by a company admittedly with an economic interest in keeping weights in prison, these are the issues involved.

Negative issues, according to Strengthtech:

1. Inmates may use size and strength gained from weightlifting as a weapon against guards, other inmates, or the public upon their release.

2. Guards feel intimidated by massive inmates.

3. People do not want their tax dollars being used to provide gymnasiums, and new weight rooms for felons

4. Weightlifting equipment could be used as a weapon against guards or other inmates

5. Weightlifting equipment could be used as a tool to escape (bars as battering rams)

6. Inmates might be injured while lifting weights. These injuries cost taxpayers dollars.

7. We should not have better weight rooms in prison than in our schools

8. It is time to get tough on criminals

9. Weightlifting equipment is expensive and expensive to maintain.

10. Prison is not supposed to be a "nice place." We don't want them to want to come back again and again.

11. Continuing to lift weights after release could lead to use of illegal steroids and association with those who sell them and other illegal drugs

Positive issues, according to Strengthtech:

1. Weightlifting privileges can be used as a behavior tool (get out of line and no weightlifting).

2. Weightlifting teaches discipline, goals and teamwork, fills time, reduces boredom, burns off tension, and improves health and self-esteem.

3. Weightlifting can keep a large number of inmates busy at once.

4. Inmates require less supervision (guards) when participating in constructive open yard rec activities such as weightlifting than in many other situations.

5. Well-conditioned inmates are more employable upon their release.

6. Inmates preparing for a meet will very rarely get involved in prohibited activities (they do not want to lose their lifting progress).

7. Powerlifting meets offer an opportunity for inmate club sponsorship and involvement in many activities (setup, advertising, planning, concessions, photography, and cleanup, printing programs).

8. Personal Training / Personal Trainers is a possible job market for inmates upon their release.

9. Most crimes happen during "leisure time." Inmates who fill their leisure time with recreational activities such as weightlifting and continue to do so upon their release are less likely to return.

Strengthtech points out:

1. The National Correctional Recreation Association strongly supports the use of weight lifting in correctional settings.

2. Many weightlifting programs are funded by money generated by offenders (commissary store funds, canteen funds, vending machines, long distance telephone income, and recreation fees), not by tax dollars.

3. Most inmates are going to be released at some point in time

4. In violent crimes committed with weapons, muscles are rarely the weapon of choice.

5. The weight lifting programs currently in place are prescribed by existing public laws

6. Prison Powerlifting Meets are not new. They have been going on for over ten years in many institutions. They have only recently caught the attention of the media.

7. The very act of removing privileges such as weightlifting may cause unrest and or violence.

8. Some states have:

a. Banned free weights and still allow machines.

b. Limited the size of the weights available to the inmates.

c. Banned maintenance of existing weightlifting equipment. This is done
eventually remove all the equipment by removing each item from service when it breaks.

9. If weightlifting were banned, somewhat similar results could be obtained from lifting everything from law books, to beds, to other inmates, to their own body-weight in calisthenics.

10. Some legislators have been accused of "publicity seeking" for bringing up or sponsoring the issue during this "be tough on crime" era.

Dana Tofig, writing in the Hartford Courant, says, "Bashing prison amenities has become a common, and successful, political tactic. The argument resonates with many voters: Prison should not be a place people want to be." Tofig quotes Connecticut state Senator John A. Kissel, a leader in the fight to toughen up Connecticut prisons and eliminate weight lifting, as saying, "It can't be fun, like being outside of prison. That doesn't seem to mesh with my view of a tough correctional system. Essentially what you’re doing is you’re making criminals stronger."

Then there’s Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Arizona’s Maricpa County, who really believes in getting tough on prisoners. Arpaio housed prisoners sentenced to a year or less in tent cities ["good enough for our troops in Desert Storm"], feeds them lots of bologna ["saves money’], puts them in striped uniforms chained together to do community work, patrols the camps with dogs with cameras strapped on their backs, and doesn’t allow basketball, weights, coffee, cigarettes or television. There’s talk of his running for governor and he’s written a book, The Toughest Sheriff in America. Arpaio says, "People are fed up with crime, and they want somebody to do something about it instead of talking about it," he said.

According to Tofig, "Prisoners who are simply warehoused like that will become more anti-social, some argue, and be more of a problem when they are released. Amenities give inmates something to do instead of causing trouble. ‘Things like sports, that's just simple common sense. Most people in prison are of a young age and full of energy,’ said Jenni Gainsborough of the American Civil Liberties Union. ‘They are going to find some way of releasing it.’ Without amenities to provide that release, she said, ‘prison becomes very difficult to manage, and it becomes very dangerous for the staff that works in there.’"

The National Correction Recreation Association says, "The task of providing a safe environment of positive change is not an easy one and our tools are few. The elimination of any of these tools would create a void that would be difficult and costly to fill. The reality is that nearly all inmates in our prisons will one day return to society. It is our responsibility to ensure that they have every opportunity to return as more productive citizens than when they came to us. Weight lifting is a vital part of correctional programming and we strongly encourage its continued presence in the prisons of the United States of America."

States who have or are considering banning lifting Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin.:

Tell us what you think!

We’ll listen to everyone, but we’d particularly like to hear from
those who’ve been in prison and lifted and from correction
officers, particularly correction officers who are lifters.

Users Respond: Weights in Prison

Fitness : Fitness Articles

"So here is the question, How much iron do you have to pump to be able to lift a .357 magnum? How much to lift a knife? How much for a baseball bat? When was the last time a bank was robbed at hand-point?" Many of our users wrote in response to our article "Pumping Iron on the Mainline".

"I would just like to give my own viewpoints as an ex-con who was incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for eight years. On almost every unit I hit, there was some kind of weight set. Whether it was a universal weight machine or a free weight set, there was something to work out with. As anyone who lifts weights or does any kind of training knows, it takes dedication, focus and drive to complete any goals that you set for yourself in this area of life. Speaking for myself, I can say that the road to 'rehabilitation' began with that large stack of intimidating steel. Though it is true that a person must want to reform before it can actually happen, that person must also have guidance, a plan and a way to keep themselves on track. Weight training is an excellent way to accomplish this. Many niave people believe convicts train to become 'bigger, stronger, more violent criminals'. For some people, that may be true. But for the majority it is not. There are two types of criminals, violent and non-violent. Non-violent criminals, by definition, would not need to be intimidating or stronger to commit their crimes. Therefore the theory does not stand with them. Violent criminals, on the other hand, do need to be of a more physically imposing nature. However, a very small percentage of violent crimes are committed without some sort of weapon. So here is the question, How much iron do you have to pump to be able to lift a .357 magnum? How much to lift a knife? How much for a baseball bat? When was the last time a bank was robbed at hand-point?

True, violent crimes are commited with the brute strenght of the human body, but not being able to lift weights would not stop this. The only way to stop this kind of violence would be to stop all sorts of physical activities. No weights are needed for push-ups. None needed for cardiovascular workouts. No weights are needed for sit-ups. So where do we stop. Take away the weights, take away areas to run in. Take away areas large enough to do push-ups in. We might as well strap every inmate to their bed for the duration of their incarceration. R Cotten, Jr.

"I was a correctional officer for six years in the Texas Dept. of Corrections. I supervised the weight rooms and rec yards on many occasions. The inmates who worked out on a regular basis, be it machines or free weights, gave the corrections officers fewer problems than inmates who never lifted weights, and they also had better work ethics doing their jobs while in prison. The inmates who worked out were also sick much less, had better attitudes and fought much less with other inmates. Weight training gave the inmates something to do that was productive. If all of this worked for inmates while incarcerated, imagine what it can do for those of us in the "free" world! GET TO WORKING OUT!!!!!!! Jeff D"

"Those who argue that inmates should not be afforded 'luxuries' such as weights in prisons and that they should 'earn their keep' and work off their 'wrongs' probably don't know that most inmates do work, generally for a few cents an hour. Perhaps society can justify that they deserve nothing better or they have earned this lifestyle, however, people do make mistakes. Prison doesn't reform inmates: people have to decide to change. Whether someone is wrongfully or rightfully sentenced to prison they should have the right to work out and lift weights. They should have the right to choose a healthy lifestyle. And from another perspective nobody ever boasts that prison is a safe place, sometimes weight-lifting saves their lives in more ways than one. Ruth E"

"Society doesn't need bigger, stronger criminals. Prisoners should not have access to weights. Let them do pushups, sit-ups and other such body weight exercises. They should not be allowed weights no matter who pays for them. A law enforcement officer must use his own off-duty time to keep fit. He must work to provide food for himself and family. These dirt-bags in prison shouldn't have it so good. They have decent beds, exercise equipment, food, all the girly magazines they can read and their 'buddies' in there with them. The bleeding heart liberals should host these criminals in their own homes if they are so fond of them and be responsible for any further crimes they commit. Fred W."

"Imagine your 19 year old son going to jail for some petty non violent crime. He is a non-violent person, (or maybe he is violent) he made a bad decision, or was with others that made a bad decision, and he goes to prison. Now imagine the environment he must get accustomed to. Everyone watching their backs, and their buddies backs. He is alone. He is scared, and the other inmates can see that, it makes him an easy target. If no one works out, everyone is in the same basic condition. If someone has been there for a couple of years, and works out every day, because there is nothing else to do, they have an upper hand on new inmates. "Prisoners should have time outside and while they are out there, they can run, that is exercise. They can do exercise without weights like pushups, situps, squats or lunges, pull-ups if they can find a bar. These will keep a person in shape using their own body weight, and not make them a super criminal. But most of all they should have a library to train their mind, and classes to educate them past high school, or in a college course. Then when they get out if they want to train with weights that will give them an incentive to stay out of prison, and make the right choices. slapp"

"Of course prisoners should be able to lift weights, Physical conditioning and mental conditioning go hand in hand. From what I've heard so far people are intimidated by people with muscles. Remember folks, muscles are nothing to fear: ignorance should be feared. Furthermore prisons are as much a business as a place for punishment. Imagine what would happen if our society would take a different approach to imprisonment, i.e. like every other industrialized/civilized country. How many folks in law enforcement - cops, guards, lawyers, judges, prison doctors and other staff - would have to find gainful employment? When imprisonment becomes fair then we can talk about punishments. Melvin"

"My son is in prison for a crime he did not commit. He does not have a weight room. He is kept in tin buildings where there is no air conditioning, its approx. 120 degrees in the daytime. He has finally gotten into a school program where he can learn to be a brick layer. Every time, before he can get on the bus to go a 1/2 mile he has to strip and be searched thoroughly. Isn't this a bit ridiculous? The guards know which prisoners are trouble and which ones aren't. I, too, worked with the law enforcement for a period of 8 years. I, too, know what goes on with a lot of small town law enforcement personnel, and it's not good. The state no longer has to prove a person guilty, a person has to prove himself innocent. Your right, it's crazy. If I knew how to fix it, I would, but I don't. Billie"

"I think weight lifting equipment and extras in prison should be earned with good behavior. If a prisoner tries to better him/herself, more should be made available to help that person. I agree that many people are in prison unfairly, and this would benefit those people. However, to compare prison to concentration camps, as one person did, is ludicrous. Matha"

"I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years. After only reading a few of the articles, it only takes me a second to be come angry. To listen to people talking about how Prison Inmates should have the rights that every one else has is ridiculous. Once you commit a crime against another person or persons and have been convicted in a Court of Law you should lose all your rights! For someone to say that inmates come into the system illiterate and unskilled is true, but to say that they leave the system the same is true only to some point. . . . (The idea that prison) need(s) to reform the inmates (is) B.S. The only inmates that will reform are the ones that truly want to be reform and they do it themselves. Programs provided for the inmates should not be top dollar programs. Uh, hello - they're convicted criminals.

"I spent 2 years of my career in the Utah State Prison and am now currently on the street as a patrol officer. At times in the prison I would have to go into units with any where from 1 to 50 inmates are around me. If inmates are allowed to lift, even if only third lifted regularly, then the lives of guards are in greater jeopardy than they already are.

When inmates are released, I have to deal with them on the street. Your saying, well, that's what you chose to do, and you're right; but I did not agree to deal with them coming out bigger and stronger because of some bleeding heart liberal has some sick feelings for criminals that commit crimes. I will tell you one thing, if I come a cross a suspect who is more physically overpowering than myself or a partner, and they decide to fight, someone is going to find a bullet, and it won't be me or my partner. I don't mean that to sound cruel, but the number one rule is that I will go home to my family at the end of my shift.

"Prisons are turning out bigger stronger inmates and in turn that means that we need bigger stronger cops. But the second that a cop has to use force against a suspect the public turns and ridicules the cop that ‘He could have used something else!’ As a cop you use what you have been trained to use. Those that knock on cops generally have not needed the assistance of one. Ask your self, if a bullet is flying to kill you or some one you love, who is the first one that is going to jump in front of it? A cop doesn't need to know you or like you, all we need to know is that you are in trouble and we will put our life on the line for you. And who are we willing to die for you for? Bigger and stronger convicts and criminals? N.P. Utah"

"I feel that inmates are in prison to serve time for a crime they have committed. If my child is being punished he generally is not sent to his room so that he can play with the things he keeps in his room. Instead he has privileges taken from him. These people behind bars have been committed to prison because of crimes they have committed against people. Why should we treat these same people better than we would our own children? Someone mentioned earlier that these inmates could one day be someone from within our own families, that may be true, but I would still expect that this family member to not be given privileges that some of the poorest in America do not have access to. If they want exercise let them run around the yard. Why should tax money be spent to get them in prime physical condition to come out and possibly commit a crime again that is much worse than the initial one that put them in prison the first time. Would these same people who are all for the inmates having access to workout equipment be so willing to allow the government to pay for memberships to gyms for welfare recipients? These inmates are treated much better than the homeless, who have done nothing other than to lose their home. I would much rather see this money spent on improving the lives of children who are left homeless everyday. The money could be spent in so many other places. Why should prisoners, who may or may not take responsibilities for their actions get to live a life that is easy for them. I would hazard a guess that the few come out of it willing to change their ways."

"I know a lot of people who come from prison and go back to doing the same thing as before... the bad thing about it is they come out off prison all buffed up and chiseled and better suited to make more trouble then they made last time. Its like a health club to most of them when I alk to them hey say,’Well, you know, I was locked up getting my workout on.’ Come on now!! The only workout they should get is the workout that involves cleaning the freeways,etc. unrealballer"

"Our local prison offered a web page on this. Part of their mission is to make provisions to help inmates improve through recreation while also operating economically. One service of the prison is a welfare fund to purchase exercise equipment. Although this fund has other programs and such, it is funded with a budget. To sum up, it's a program that I think can help more than not. Adam"

"I am a Deputy Sheriff in Southern California. I currently work at the county jail. I have contact with plenty of large ripped inmates. I only wish I had the time and the ease of a set daily routine to work out like they have the opportunity to do at State Prison. Going to jail is not supposed to be rewarding. Statistics show that most violent offenders get out and commit violent crimes again. I work out in order to maintain a level of fitness and strength I need to defend myself against attack from an inmate. If they want to work out let them do cardio or something not involved with strength training or mass building. How would you like to go up against a 250 pound ripped parolee in a one-on-one fight in a dark alley or lonely roadside? I treat the inmates at my facility with as much respect as they will allow and maintain my personal safety and the safety of my co-workers. I just don't see why they should be allowed to train for their next encounter with law enforcement or the public. Size can and does help in intimidating victims. Jail is not a health club. I am not saying we should starve or mistreat inmates, but to allow them to get huge and ripped is ridiculous. Dep.M.H."

"Just remember when you get so judgmental about how prisoners should be treated that some day you may have a son, daughter, husband, or some other family member that ends up there. Once that happens you will surely change your mind. Just start worrying about how you live you own life and that you treat everyone with love because someday you too will be judged. We are all human with the same needs. Just being in prison is punishment enough. Just imagine how you would feel if you just had to even stay in your bedroom for 10 years. Get real! Prison is bad enough. Let these people have what little life they can. NB"

"The only weights being lifted by convicts should be the pick or sledgehammer they should be wielding on chain gangs. They are in prison because of their wrong doings. Prison should not be a resort. Jason Cavazos"

"I am grateful that you think that this subject deserves airing. Some of those who have shared their opinions are obviously well informed about prison conditions; others are merely sharing opinions formulated on generally held notions concerning prisons and prison life. May I add what I know--with the operative word being ‘know’? First, the weight equipment is not paid for by the state, but is purchased using monies from what in California is known as ‘the inmate welfare fund’--monies derived from a portion of profits made on selling items to inmates--from commercial soap to food stuffs to other amenities. The taxpayer, in short, does NOT pay for this equipment. There is a far greater restriction on the use and availability of this equipment nowadays, for the reasons expressed by those in these comments by your readership. Privileges should be earned if they are to have any relevance for prisoners, and most of them do earn these. The ability to earn these privileges, by virtue of work, though, is exceedingly limited. There is insufficient personnel or resources for providing the supervision of this work. Were there adequate resources, the taxpayers would feel and even greater pinch--the equivalent of warehousing alone running to better than $20,000 annually per prisoner. The opportunity for any education process is also limited--with many prisoners leaving prison as illiterate and unskilled as they arrived. Again, the problem is resources--personnel, classroom space, etc. This has traditionally been another means by which to gain these privileges. Unemployment and underemployment--even for menial tasks--is a distinct reality. Prison guards are glad for the availability of weight equipment. It reduces the likelihood of riots, literally. It is a means of control. As for other programs--drug counseling, religious programs, AA meetings, etc.--there is again a limitation on the availability of these. Using state correctional statistics, 80%+ paroles (felons released to the outside) will return. That percentage, by the way, is FIVE TIMES GREATER than for those who have life sentences for committing murder (of whatever degree--first, second degree). Given that we have more people incarcerated in the United States than the whole of Europe, and only two countries have more: Russia and the Peoples Republic of China, suggests that something is terribly wrong. Drug laws, parenting, whatever--you pick a reason, any you won't be far from the truth. If I have gotten away from the subject a bit, well, perhaps it is because weight training equipment/programs in prison is a triviality that provides a smoke-screen for the underlying problems that need addressing. Jim of Nevada."

"I agree that when these people get out of prison, we all want them to be nice and not bitter. However, how many of us have learned proper behavior without some type of consequence for negative behavior? The boot camp theory interest me. I would like to see what type of outcome we get if fitness and discipline are provided at the same time. -VH "

"I am a Correctional Officer and I can't believe all the ‘perks’ inmates get when they break the law. Most would not be able to afford a gym on the outside. I don't think weights should be in prisons. If they keep them in the prisons, there shouldn't be enough weights for an inmate to bulk up, only enough to tone. The food is so fattening in the prisons, that the inmates would probably have to stop eating for the workouts to be an advantage. T in CO"

"I agree with a few others in the view that prison should be like boot camp. When an individual joins the armed forces they voluntarily sign a contract actually giving up certain rights. When someone knowingly commits a crime they also voluntarily are giving up rights. They demonstrate that they cannot control themselves, therefore they must be controlled. I feel that providing them amenities that many law-abiding citizens cannot afford (i.e. club memberships) at the cost of those same citizens is wrong. Prison should be a terrible experience (insert golden rule here). Let the inmates know how the victims feel, not relax and workout on my buck. Cherri J."

"YES! I do think they should be able to lift weights! Why not? Francine Bockman"

"Some of the comments suggesting we let prisoners rot are ignorant. Our justice system is anything but fair. It is run on pure politics, not what is right. Too often people that should not be in prison are put there. Many of our country's offenders could benefit more from intensive rehab programs or boot camp, but judges would rather look good to the community so they send them off to prison. To say that everyone in the prison system is violent and brutal is ridiculous. Yes, some prisoners are sick-minded and heartless, BUT NOT ALL. Those people who have a good chance of becoming rehabilitated should have that opportunity, and not be left to rot. If we do they could become the violent people we first assumed them to be . . . While you may not have committed a crime, we have all made mistakes in our lives. What if people judged you based on something stupid you did years ago? Is that mistake a reflection of who you are today? Just because a person commits a crime does not mean that they are bad, and does not mean that they lack all ability to change. You can just put prisoners in a cell with no rehab or opportunities to better and educate themselves, or you can offer opportunities to prisoners who want to better themselves and prepare to succeed in society upon release. You say you would choose the former option, but what if an inmate from this prison you're funding is released and moves into the house next door to where your family lives? Would you want him/her to have spent the past few years in intensive rehab programs and counseling or in a cell doing nothing but building up rage, anger, hatred, and new criminal schemes? Jennifer"

"I do believe that the general public is enormously misinformed about the correctional institutions that exist in this country. I can only speak about the ones that I have personally toured as part of my graduate program. They consisted of the essentials for basic survival.

"Everything that an inmate receives is either earned through their job or money that family members send to them. Any health care received is paid for by the inmate through deductions from their inmate account.

"The American taxpayer is not paying for frills but the warehousing of human life. Yes, prison is designed to punish but we must remember that a majority of these inmates will be released back into society and how they are treated, the state of their health when released will reflect directly back on society. Kathleen R., LSW, MSW"

"Hmmm, tough positions to consider. We can give a prisoner 24 hours a day times 365 days per year to consider how much they hate being in prison and the society that put them there, not to mention how to break out. Or, we can keep them busy with setting and achieving goals, learning discipline, patients and developing self esteem. We can mistreat people and make them mean and angry or educate them and help them become a contributing member of society.

"Once a felon has offended, getting tough on crime through boredom and mistreatment does little to promote a successful release. Since only 3% of offenders die behind bars, what kind of an attitude and what kind of a mind set would we like offenders to come out of prisons with? This activity combined with proper education and goal setting can contribute a lot to keep the public safer. Anytime to hold a mule too tight, they are going to kick eventually.

"Perhaps we should expand the idea to make it more accessible to non-offenders. Right now, the cost of a gym membership is just too much for segments of society (traditionally where a percentage of the offenders may come from). On the other hand, social knowledge base is expanding at such a high rate, that it is difficult for many young people and older people to keep up. It is the balance where we can make the greatest difference. Rob A."

"I agree that prisons are way too luxurious and I know there are some people that have committed crimes just to get 3 meals a day and shelter. Life can be very complex for someone that cannot handle modern society. On another point, some might say that the inmates need to workout their stress. I've been lifting weights for years, and what happens is that you get more aggressive because of the higher testosterone levels generated by increased physical stress.

"So, we basically send people to prison, teach them how to increase their aggressive qualities, then release them into the world. Not exactly what I call rehab. For those of you who have never worked out (i.e. heavy weight training, not aerobics), you may want to do the research. More testosterone means more aggressive behavior in terms of attitude, sex; basically, it tends to make men more prone to instinctive primitive behavior. Katy T."

"This forum sounds like it's straight out of the Third Reich. You know, the Nazis had a word for a prison where all the inmates did was work and be punished (and used for medical experiments, as Stephen suggests): it was Concentration Camp. Ulrich L. Portland, OR"

"What in the world does [a discussion of weights in prison] have to do with a Web site for 24 Hour Fitness? It is so inappropriate . . . I don't think your Web site should be promoting any political agendas on any issue, conservative or liberal. Please remember, law enforcement officers and women who are likely to be crime victims are the paying customers of 24 Hour Fitness. I see many Correctional Officers and police officers working out [at the clubs]. Why don't you consider the welfare and safety of your paying members rather than espousing a liberal policy? Stella Kowalski"

Editor's Note: Stella, from the start we've assumed our club members and eClub members are interested in more than just abs. We know that most of our online users are college graduates and they are interested in a wide variety of fitness-related subjects. We're looking for content which is informative, entertaining and stimulating. The weights in prison article continues to provoke discussion, and we've been glad to share that discussion which includes lots of viewpoints, including yours. Many corrections departments and police departments have taken advantage of our Corporate Wellness programs for their employees. We've welcomed their contributions to the discussion. Interestingly many prison guards who have to work and keep peace behind prison bars support prison weight lifting and recreational programs as a way of making their jobs easier.

"Weight training as well as any other privileges should be earned once an individual is behind bars for a crime. By giving prisoners a way to earn special and voluntary luxuries, they can see the positive outcome of appropriate behavior and how it is achieved as well as taken away upon unacceptable actions. These prisoners can benefit from the positive aspects of exercise by helping their outlook be more positive and having an outlet on pent up frustrations that everyone can have. With a way for them to learn how to channel those emotions into an appropriate release they could in time learn more productive ways to channel other self defeating and negative feelings in life in to a more positive outcome. More minor points on this subject are increased health, structured activities in their daily routine, rewards and consequences (mentioned above), to see what hard work can accomplish, setting goals and seeing they can be achieved. These are not what is needed to rehabilitate criminals by any means but they are if used properly tools that can help in the overall rehabilitation of incarcerated inmates. These are some reasons I vote for the STRUCTURED USE of exercise equipment and programs in our nations prisons, like any tool if it is not used properly or worse yet left unused and forgotten in the tool box we can't afford to just throw the key away. Paul J"

02-21-2003, 03:09 PM
Joe Arpaio is a first class a-hole. He's just another clowning, pandering politician.

02-21-2003, 04:10 PM

02-21-2003, 04:12 PM
Alot of it is from releaving stress, and to pass time. Kenneth said he done alot of that cause being lock up in seg also passed time

thanks for sahring fedx

02-22-2003, 11:02 AM
wow...this article revealed a lot of, well, STUPIDITY...but, at the same time, it also gave me hope that there are also some people with brains and compassion. it takes all kinds. i think i will print this out and send it to lee. he is soooo happy that he gets to work out.

um, how is it that people think having access to weights in a PRISON makes the prison "resort"-like? oh my goodness. if these people think prisons are so great, why don't they go commit a crime so that their life could become "easier?" you know what i mean? (i'm being facetious, kind of.) ask them to do that, and see what they say. see how quickly they run to "club med" with their sunscreen!!!


02-22-2003, 11:45 AM
you go get them emme,lol

02-24-2003, 09:28 AM
Awesome info David. Thanks for the post.

02-25-2003, 09:17 PM
Great post

04-15-2003, 02:13 AM
I have been employed within a correctional setting (prisons) for approximately 15 years now and from what I discovered a long time ago while dealing with inmates who did and did not participate with the weightlifting was as follows:

1. Inmates who are dedicated to lifting weights to better themselves rarely are disciplinary problems.

Why I think this was the case: In my opinion it is very difficult and stressfull being in an environment where someone tells you when you can eat, sleep, recreate, shower...etc..etc...(all these things depend on what the current "setup" of the institution is and also include inmates having to deal with gang violence, drugs in the institution, etc....).....They need something to help them "focus" on as a positive "within the walls" so that they can maintain their sanity....Not saying that all of them would benefit from a weight lifting program but weights provide a good positive stress reliever for many.

As for anyone saying that weights are a cost issue I would say that compared to medical costs of treating someone who developes a mental illness or injuries caused by someone who is simply "stressed out" would be much higher of an expense then the costs of the weights at each facility.

Also...I have never been intimidated due to the size of an inmate who lifted weights. In my opinion potential danger is there either way and although the size of the person involved in a "conflict" may be a factor I have not seen very many circumstances within my 15 years to support the theory that officers are more threatened by large inmates.

Regardless of what anyone thinks weights being provided in a prison environment does NOT make it a "nice" place to be.

I have always treated every inmate I have come in contact with with a professional attitude regardless of how the inmate was acting which has resulted in mainly "positive" days at work. And before someone asks my employment has always included working directly around many inmates at all times. I have to abide by regulations and policies while at work meaning that I must treat all inmates equally but at the same time I have found that if I strive to maintain a positive attitude all the time and treat them fairly it seems to "rub off" on the inmates and I very seldom have any problems dealing with a situation.

I know most people who have never directly seen the inside "goings on" within the prison where their family member or loved one is incarcerated can only imagine how difficult it can be on them in there. I agree that things can get pretty bad sometimes because I have seen many things ranging from staff assaults, inmate on inmate assaults, drug activity, and gang violence (which can include everything from violence, drug use...and more)...Anyone who thinks a prison anywhere is a "cakewalk" is crazy...That goes for employees and inmates. Some systems are better then others and some are worse and although I'm not "superman" I am living proof that it is possible to work in a correctional environment for many years and still maintain my professional attitude, positive thinking, and have a minimal amount of problems occur. I fully support the presence of weights in prisons.

All of the institutions I have been employed at have been maximum security prisons housing many violent offenders who are doing ALOT of time...many of them will not even live to get out of there. I believe in something I was told a long time ago by an "old hand" who helped train me in the beginning. He always said: "it doesn't matter what they are in were not the judge, you were not on the jury, and you are not the executioner....just come to work, follow policy, stay professional by not getting mixed up with "inmate games", and remember that their being there is their "punishment"."

(if anyone reading this is not familiar with what I mean by "inmate games" he was referring to a factual condition in which many inmates (especially ones serving long sentences) try to "setup" an officer to get what they want such as drugs, sexual please don't think it was meant to seem as though all inmates do this....I have seen many who just want to do their time and get back on the streets and others who will never get out who just want to live the rest of their lives the best they doesn't apply to all of them)

Not sure if any of this I just posted is of any interest to anyone but since I do search all message boards I can find from time to time to view concerns and statements of people who both work in institutions around the nation and also people who have been incarcerated or have people they care about who are incarcerated so I can see every side of the "issues". Actually...I don't even know if anyone would want me to post anything here...but here it is anyway...if you don't want any input from me please let me know and I will not post any more responses.....Thanks

04-15-2003, 02:49 AM
Thanks for posting this!!! I came across it last week. It is interesting to me because Billy definately does the pumping iron thing!!! He is HUGE!!! His arms are 29 inches around!!!! woohoo!!!

04-15-2003, 02:50 AM
i forgot this....

04-15-2003, 09:21 AM
Wizard, good to see you here with us and thank you for your input on this.

04-15-2003, 08:47 PM
Thank you very much for your input and it is good to have it from a CO's point of view. I have heard many of the same sentiments out of CO's where I was located, along with the warden, but the Federal B.O.P. has pretty much shut that down in newer institutions.
Please do stick around and you posts and insight are welcome here. We actually have a number of retired and past CO's that visit PTO on a regular basis and have been a great help to many here. Of course, everyone won't always agree (of course this doesn't matter what jobs we hold ;) )but I think the vast majority of us want to learn as much as we can to make the trip through the system as easy as possible.
Thanks again and welcome to PTO.

04-15-2003, 09:06 PM

Welcome and I hope that you do continue to post and "hang around." We can use your input and feedback on issues.....


04-19-2003, 06:15 AM
I too want to thank you for your input. My husband is quite the muscle man himself and during our visit last weekend, we were discussing the possibility of the weights being taken away from where he is and he had the same views about it as we do. He is very into weight lifting and for some, it's their only defense when they come in all scrawny lol
Thanks for your input and I welcome you to our wonderful place here!! It's nice to see what a C.O. (not Guard, I know lol) thinks :)

04-20-2003, 05:19 PM
Thank you Wizzard and David for the Thread and your input.... This is one thing that I feel very strongly about... Butch has lifted weights since he was 16 years old... He has been able to keep himself in good physical condition over the years... He has been in Prison since he was 24. He is 38 now... He has a major Back injury that came from Playing Football in Highschool... Lifting weights has kept him from getting worse with his back and not being able to move... Had he not lifted weights, his back would be in a much worse condition than it is now.... They have prevented him from lifting since June of 2002... He has two buldging and 3 deteriorated disks and is in a Major Health Risk condition at this point.. All this has happened since they stopped letting him lift...

He has never lifted to make himself a threat to guards or prison CO's... He has made himself big in order to look like he could be dangerous in order to keep other inmates from attacking him.. He has never attacked anyone in his life..He will defend himself, but he has never been a danger to anyone.

I also know, that if all recreation is taken from inmates, then you are asking for more attacks on Guards and other prison workers... Inmates will start to Riot and cause major problems in the System..No one wants that to happen, Not the inmates, Nor the Guards.

Treat them as tho they were human in all aspects.. They will come home one day..


04-20-2003, 05:36 PM
I agree with Donna. I see only the benefits to weight lifting. It occupies their times and teaches them goals. One of the most important things in life is goals. Setting and accomplishing goals gives you a sense of satisfaction. Something that is needed in prison,.

04-28-2003, 08:12 AM
Just got a letter in from my husband.TDCJ is doing away with free weights on the 15th of May and the coach also. My husbad is a weight lifter and he said that is going to cause alot more I/Ms on the yard.As a ex officer I know the more I/ms you get together the more trouble.I never had any problems with the ones who lifted weights. My problems came from the ones who wanted to sit around all day and do nothing to better their selfs and I'm talking about the ones that was capable of getting up and doing something. This is some of tdcj's cutbacks and there is some more to come I already no about. If your intrested in hearing them give me holler back.

04-28-2003, 08:38 AM
that wold be wonderful. I would do that in the Tx forum. I will be looking for the post. thanks

04-28-2003, 08:59 AM
In December 2001, Hays Sp in Ga took the weights from the inmates. In 2 months time, fights between inmates and assaults on officers more than doubled. Also, the amount of diciplinary reports went sky high due to officers actually writing up and locking down inmates for filling up plastic bags with water to work out with. The inmates would also fill up bags with rocks while on the yard to work out with, then would empty them out before returning to the dorm. If they were locked down, they would spend atleast a month in the hole just for working out. It is crazy. I never had any problems with them when they were working out. It is stress and tension relief, and it makes them feel better about themselves. The bottom line is, eventually every inmate needs an outlet to vent the stress and frustration that accompanies prison life, and if they keep taking all the practical and safe methods, they shouldn't be surprised when the inmates turn on each other or officers. A person can only take so much, so it's time they realized that inmates are people, too. After taking almost every form of recreation from them, someone will publish one of their b/s reports about the rise in the level of fights and assaults so the public will think even worse of our guys, but no where in the report does it say what the DOC did to provoke the rise. The public needs to know what is really happening on the other side of the fence. Great post, Fed-X! :wave:

04-29-2003, 08:47 AM
I think a limit on size of weights is probably the most reasonable restriction I can see for any institution. What StrengthTech says about muscle not being a factor in violent crime is total BS. Muscles allow street thugs to intimidate victims better, and anyone who uses a knife or a ballbat will find more muscle to be generally useful.

Of their 9 positive points, I found only 2 that are possibly accurate (#8 and #9), and even these are only a possible good point. All or almost all of them could be undertaken by another activity.

Of the negative points, some were inaccurate, but mostly fair. The fact is you don't want to bring a 178 lb. teenage thug into the system and give him 5 to 7 years lifting weights to come out full of muscle mass and a hard-on to commit more crimes. Without the weights, even if he were going to rob again, he'd still be the 178 lb. scruff he was when he came in.

04-29-2003, 01:15 PM
What!!! How much strength does it take to stab someone or crush their skull with a ballbat? My husband is a power lifter and I'm willing to bet that though true he could swing harder than I, both of us could make a big mess out of a pumpkin.
And I thought all street thugs carried guns now anyway. You only have to be a 98lb weakling to work one of those.

In MI the inmates pay for their own weights. Most weight pits are outside and you have to be pretty dedicated to go out there when the snows blowing to work out.

I am sick everytime I hear the oh they got it so good crap. Yeah, well than put your money where your mouth is and take my husbands place and go live in the lap of luxury.

04-29-2003, 03:25 PM

MaBear, how correct you are... I too am tired of hearing how good they have it... The only recreacreation they have is weights, a little basketball, and some softball on some camps.... What is wrong with keeping them in good health... There are certainly no Doctors in the system to take care of them when they do get in bad shape as Butch is today with his back... No one wants to give him medical treatment due to the cost of the treatment....

God Bless you All


12-26-2006, 01:39 PM
Weights are a form of exercise and tension relievers. It is definitely a good thing for them to have access to. Fresh air is another good thing. :)

03-16-2007, 01:11 PM
My baby better keep lifting weights and exercising because he'll need all that power and strength when he comes home to me. :yay:

03-17-2007, 11:43 PM
I think if weights are to stay in prison they should be after a inmate has completed something as an educational program or working for a period of time. Having weights isn't a basic necessity to live in prison.

03-18-2007, 04:05 PM
What!!! How much strength does it take to stab someone or crush their skull with a ballbat? My husband is a power lifter and I'm willing to bet that though true he could swing harder than I, both of us could make a big mess out of a pumpkin.
And I thought all street thugs carried guns now anyway. You only have to be a 98lb weakling to work one of those.

In MI the inmates pay for their own weights. Most weight pits are outside and you have to be pretty dedicated to go out there when the snows blowing to work out.

I am sick everytime I hear the oh they got it so good crap. Yeah, well than put your money where your mouth is and take my husbands place and go live in the lap of luxury.

Wow! I LOVE what you had to say about this issue. I'm with ya on this completely! :thumbsup:

Vail Beach
04-16-2007, 11:14 AM
If they're so worried about the inmates becoming bigger than the guards, why don't they just limit the size of the weights? Smaller, lighter weights allow inmates to keep in good physical shape without necessarily building up massive bulk. Working with weights helps people lose weight, research is showing now.

Also, why not give the guards access to the weights, if they're so worried about the inmates getting bigger. The guards can get bigger too.

I'm heading off to a federal camp in a few days (unless bail is restored), and learning that weights won't be there because of this stupid political posturing is disappointing.

09-06-2007, 12:26 AM
I think one of the biggest reasons is cost of the guard. Instead of a guard watching prisoners doing weights they could utilize them elsewehre.

09-08-2007, 09:06 PM
Weight lifting is the only thing that occupies my fiance's time. He said it keeps him sane.

See'ya Someday
09-08-2007, 11:00 PM
I agree with Donna. I see only the benefits to weight lifting. It occupies their times and teaches them goals. One of the most important things in life is goals. Setting and accomplishing goals gives you a sense of satisfaction. Something that is needed in prison,.

If it help them pass the time and keeps them out of trouble then it's good

09-27-2007, 06:03 PM
Implying that a couple of weight benches is the eqivilant to a resort or spa is just plain stupid. If not for some sort of stress relief they would become more dangerous. These bozo's should spend 30 days in a prison and find out how fabulous it is in there. Don't they all look like they've been on retreats?

09-28-2007, 08:25 AM
My brother in law did a 5 year bid in NJ....went in all about gangs, drugs etc and with the I don't care attitude. A CO turned him on to the weight room and it changed his life. He's been home 4 years now and works as a personal trainer...wouldn't even think of putting a drug in his now beautiful body. He went from a thug to a very sound minded man. I don't miss the old him at all.

Now where PO is in jail they don't have any weights and they are not allowed to work out....he said you do your push ups against the wall so that if a guard comes by you aren't on the floor etc. He has always worked out and it's gotta be hard not to do something so healthy for your mind, body, and soul.

09-28-2007, 08:35 AM
Lifting is the only thing that keeps hubby sane in there.

09-28-2007, 07:44 PM
I'm currently watching on MSNBC...Lock Up Extended Stay in San Quentin. It just showed a group of guys on the yard filling bags up with water to use as (make) their weights. Said the Gov. won't allow them to have real weights. Also, doing push-up's, running in place, etc. in their cells. That's pitiful that they have to be creative in finding ways to stay physically fit! Gov. Schwarzenegger is pretty well "pumped up" (to the max) his self. What the hell? He of all people should relate to physical fitness. Saying that inmates work out to become intimidating towards CO's is crazy!!! I know when my guy works out...he says he wants to stay in shape & look good for me!

09-28-2007, 07:47 PM
Im glad they have weights and other thing to pass their time. They are already locked up why make it worse?

10-12-2007, 01:06 PM
Do most state prisons no longer have weights? What about federal prisons?

10-12-2007, 02:37 PM
They just took all weights out of Florida. I don't know abour federal my husband is state. But the word is that they have been finding mass building supliments. They want the guys to do more calisthenics. It is healthier for their hearts and they won't get bigger than the CO's, supposidly.

10-19-2007, 12:05 AM
They just took all weights out of Florida. I don't know abour federal my husband is state. But the word is that they have been finding mass building supliments. They want the guys to do more calisthenics. It is healthier for their hearts and they won't get bigger than the CO's, supposidly.

What do you mean? You mean they have been finding alternatives to weight lifting in federal prisons?

Mrs. Mad B
10-19-2007, 06:15 AM
I'm happy they have weights, because if not, my hubby would be fighting more that he already is. I think it's the least they can do...

11-10-2007, 09:17 AM
My husband is in a FPC and was able to use the gym and weights. He was a type 2 diabetic. Without the gym and weights he would have never been able to control the type 2 diabetes. He is no longers carries the disease and is free from all shots and medicine.

11-12-2007, 12:08 PM
i had to go to the beginning of this thread (bless ya all day fed-x!) and if it isn't one thing, it's another. i happen to remember that sherrif making his inmates sleep in tents and eat bologna all day, every day ... he's thinking abut running for gov'nr! Okay, and it's bad enough most states have no real "release" (conjugal visits) to maintain family bonds... and now they want to take away the weights... talk about placing the fox in the midst of the chickens!

11-12-2007, 01:00 PM
I agree with most here. I think that they should have a way for the guys and gals to release any anger or whatever release they need. Also, again, like someone else stated, goals. I know that on the outside, I have a goal of losing weight. I would be torn if I were not allowed to work out every day...

11-16-2007, 10:28 AM
I used to date a guy who owned a nutrition store and he told me about how he helped a guy who was going to prison who wanted tips on getting fit.

11-16-2007, 12:31 PM
Oklahoma does not have them either. At least the prison where my husband is at.
I can not believe that weight lifting would be cut.. What do they expect inmates to do?
The programs are a joke and few of them, they can't smoke, the phone calls are outrageous, so really what is it that the state and federal people expect to happen here?

09-18-2011, 02:30 PM
It is a really bad idea. Weight training encourages aggression, and there is way too much of that in prisons anyway. Let them do cardio instead.

Some may dispute my statement 'weight training encourages aggression'. Well I used to do running and cycling but for the past year I've been weight training instead and I definitely am more aggressive now. And no I do not take 'roids.

Also look at the number of people who start weight training and go on to do sports like boxing and MMA. They want to put their strengh into something functional and useful i.e fighting. It is absolute madness to encourage inmates to weight train. Of course you cannot stop them doing push ups or chin ups but that will not make them get huge.

Cardio will tire them out, keep them fit and relax and de-stress them much more effectively.

09-19-2011, 09:38 AM
I guess everyone has their "opinions" but I think that it depends on the individual. Not everyone becomes more aggressive. That is sterotyping in my opinion. I knew some men that were built up in prison that weren't aggressive, they just wanted to better themselves.

10-03-2011, 09:52 AM
Inmates ought to be able to lift weights. But if they can't, I've seen some burley individuals that only ran and did floor exercises.