Prisons Scramble to Switch TVs to Digital

TVs in the clink could be obsolete come February

With the switch to digital broadcast television less than a year away, wardens across the country are feverishly trying to figure out how to keep their inmates entertained.

"You don't want to be managing prisoners who have nothing to lose," says Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist and prison expert at the University of California, Berkley.

So why don't the wardens just use the $40 coupons the government promised to give folks to convert their TV's?

"They won't give us the switches, we called them," said South Carolina Corrections Department Director Jon Ozmint. "We asked them for the coupons and they said they're only available for households. I said, 'We're the big house.' But they didn't buy it."

OK, if TV is so important to keeping the peace in the joint, couldn't local governments pony up the cash? In states like Florida that sort of expenditure requires legislative action.

So corrections department spokesman Gretl Plessinger said officials are seeking donations to outfit their television.

"It's important because it's an inmate idleness issue," Plessinger said. "(We're) concerned about inmates acting up if they're bored."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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