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Old 06-05-2018, 06:33 PM
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Cool New Release DVD Showings on Prison Channel 3

I'm always a bit reluctant to share too much about prison conditions during the time I spent down in various Idaho state prisons between the years of 2004 and 2009, because conditions within really weren't that bad (all things considered) -- especially compared to some of the horror stories we hear about, those languishing in hot southern states without even basic air conditioning during the scorching summer months, or places with rampant overcrowding, prison food quality issues, out-of-control prison gangs, or other abuses.

Really, about the only thing I can think to legitimately complain about during my 5-year stay was the nasty-ass moldy showers where you had to use shower shoes (flip-flips) before venturing in, but towards the end of my stay they were even getting around to re-tiling the entire shower areas in the last unit I was staying in, so even that was being dealt with, finally.

Thinking back to those years though, the one highlight of my experience was during the weekends, where prison administrative staff used to go out and rent two or three of the latest new-release DVD movies and pipe them through the internal prison Channel 3, which was normally reserved for informational purposes, such as showing a scrolling list of which prisoners had appointments and where (during the week). They'd play these movies back-to-back, non-stop, so people could catch them throughout the day, one movie first on Friday, then another on Saturday, and sometimes even a third on Sunday.

This was a real treat, because normally all we had access to on our personal TVs were some of the cable networks like TNT and TBS which only showed movies that were at least 5 years old. So being able to watch new release films just months after they came out in the theaters was something really special that we all looked forward to each weekend. My cellie and I would make a ritual of popping a bag of commissary popcorn for the occasion, and celling up early on Friday nights. Ignoring the hub-bub of the noisy dayrooms and shutting ourselves in, enjoying a new release movie from the comfort of our cells, reclining on our bunks with our headphones off and the volume cranked up, both of us tuned to the same channel.

Unfortunately, about half-way through my stay, they suddenly discontinued the practice for some reason. I never did find out officially why -- rumors had it that a victim rights group on the outs got wind of what was going on and started complaining that prisoners were being "pampered" too much, even though the funding for both those weekend movies and the regular cable TV channels we still got to enjoy came 100% from inmate funds (namely, profits from all the overpriced commissary items), not from the taxpayers at all. There may have also been some legal issue with re-broadcasting rental DVDs to hundreds of people like that, without paying special licensing or royalty fees or something for the practice, which I was always curious about. But in any case, the fun didn't last, so we had to go back to watching re-runs on cable.

Has anyone else served time at a prison that offered similar recreational activities as a means to help pacify the prison populace? It seems like prisons can only push so far with the entertainment options before encountering political resistance from the outside, so I'm always curious to hear about how other prison systems may operate, and how they may come up with innovative ways to keep their prisoners placated.
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