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Who controls the TVs inside federal prisons & gets to decide which football games are shown?
It’s been an interesting week around here to say the least. Wednesday, I heard from an emailer who has sent several messages about normal life. I was receiving football emails from this person and then things changed Wednesday when Anonymous told me about his “I need a recovery beer” moment coming after being released from federal prison.
You’re damn right that got my attention.
Anonymous, who’s a Vols AND Michigan fan, said he was willing to answer prison questions, so I went with one that’s dear to my heart — Who controls the TVs inside the pen?
Let’s dig in. Don’t miss the part where Anonymous explains how inmates gambled during COVID. Fascinating stuff.
• Anonymous writes:
Read your column. I would be more than happy to answer prison questions, bring them on. Forward any of them you think are appropriate. I am an open book. Some people think I should forget everything about my experience and move on. I disagree 100%. It’s a part of me forever, and I can’t hide from it. People in my life can either accept it or move on. My circle of friends, and even family, has shrunk quite a bit and I’m okay with that, as I know the people still willing to stand with me are true friends and family.
As far as the TV situation…it’s complicated. I spent time in five different facilities, three county/private, and two Federal. Four of them had multiple TVs.
The first one had a nice 55″ or so, but prior to my arrival an inmate took the remote and disposed of it somehow, somewhere. The TV was stuck on the FX channel and staff had zero desire to get a replacement remote. I was only there for a week, as it was the quarantine section. Could have been worse channels for it to be on.
The second facility had two nice 50″ or so TVs about 4 feet apart. Content was chosen by the staff, however, we could bang on the door and ask them to change the channel to whatever. There weren’t any big disputes.
The third facility was in Oklahoma after my first flight on Con Air. There were six TVs all out in the open space if I recall correctly. I was there during CFB season and you could find whatever game you wanted without issue. Staff controlled the TVs, and there was an incident on a Sunday night. At night we were locked in our cells, but could see the TVs through the cell door windows. One of the TVs had the Hispanic channel on, and an inmate got a guard to switch it to Sunday Night Football. Well…that didn’t go over well with the dozen or so Hispanic inmates who went nuts. No violence occurred, but it reinforced the racial divides that are a real part of prison.
The fourth facility was a USP after my second Con Air experience. I was in quarantine…again, in a cell that was about 13’x8′ or so. Locked in there 24hrs a day. There were about eight TVs I could see outside the cell door window. There was no sound. Me and my cellie (prison slang for roommate) would take turns watching out the window trying to figure out who was winning. The TVs were too far away to see the small score graphic, but we could figure it out when they put the larger graphic up after a quarter, half, or score. I watched UofM trounce OSU last year through a window that was about 2′ tall and 5″ wide. There was an orderly who was an inmate not locked down who cleaned and took care of our needs. He also had all the remotes. All you had to do was ask him to change a TV and he would. Also watched my Lions lose, once again, on Thanksgiving through the small window.
And then after that I was transferred to a lower security facility across the street. My fifth and final facility. I spent the last nine months at a facility that had multiple TV rooms. A white TV room, a black TV room, and a community TV room (we didn’t have a large Hispanic population). Yes, race is a huge deal in prison. Between the three rooms, there were six TVs. We had ESPN, ESPN2, SEC Network, FS1, and then the usual networks like ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS. We couldn’t get ESPNU or ESPN News.
On college FB game days, the community room would usually have the big matchups on. If you were looking for something else, you might have to go to another room. But…if you’re white, you can’t go in the black room. You can sit outside and watch through the window, but you can’t go in. Likewise for the blacks watching something in the white room. And all the TVs broadcast on FM radio, so you would listen through headphones most of the time. For NFL, we didn’t have Sunday Ticket (LOL!), so there were only two games on at any given moment. With Thursday Night Football going to Prime this year, there won’t be any way to watch it. For all other sports, you could always find MLB, and NBA on.
Gambling was HUGE. I didn’t participate because of the old adage “don’t cash checks your body can’t cash” or something like that. I had zero desire to be in debt to anyone in prison. I heard stories that back in 2020 when all sports were shut down they would gamble on the last 3 digits of the three major stock markets every day. After seeing the gambling that occurred there, I believe it 100%. They even put WNBA games on the board. The NCAA tournament pool rivaled any you’ve seen on the outside.
A lot of people think TV is an extravagance for prisoners. The reality is it’s a pacifier. By that I mean it keeps them occupied and distracted, not focusing on each other. A few times we did not have access to TV due to contraband found in the unit, so they punished us by turning off the TVs. When the TVs were off, tensions gradually rose up, and depression set in for some inmates.
I can share a lot more. I have enough material to write a book. It’s a fascinating tale. Orange is the New Black got a lot right. A lot more than people think. There’s some Hollywood added to it, but damn if they didn’t nail a lot of the small things most don’t even notice.
• Another former federal inmate, E. McA., writes:
I wasn’t the former inmate that wrote about needing a recovery beer. I did however spend 15 months at a Federal Prison Camp. The question you asked is who gets to decide which football game is on the Federal prison TV. The short answer is it comes down to who controls the TV in the room where you are trying to watch and that gets complicated.
Prison rule: If you don’t know if you should touch the TV, don’t. At the prison camp I was in, there were three TV rooms: the white room had two TVs, the Black room had three TVs, and the Hispanic room had two TVs. Based on the names of the rooms you can guess who controlled the TV in each room. Anyone could watch TV in any room, unless they were being shunned as a snitch, racist or just an asshole. If someone tried to change the TV in a room that they didn’t “belong” there would be an issue.
In prison everything is politics. There was a hierarchy within each race, usually it was by seniority but more importantly by who your boys were. I controlled one of two TVs in the white room for about 6 months before I left. Control of the TV was given to me by the guy that controlled the other TV and ran the room. Somebody has to be in control of the TV or arguments will happen.
The schedule for the TV I controlled during the week was: first come first serve until 7 o’clock count. That was usually CNN, Fox News or Stock Market stuff and local news. After 7 o’clock I took control of the TV. I usually didn’t watch TV until after the 9 o’clock count so I would have a white board where guys would put their requests. If there were no requests it was first come first serve. I reserved the right to override it, but I never did though. On Monday and Thursday nights, football took precedence over shows after 9.
On Saturday during the day, it was first come, first serve until after 9 o’clock count. Then it was college football. Sundays were for the NFL. The prison was in Pennsylvania so the Eagles were always on. I’m also an Eagles fan so I always put them on. If the Eagles weren’t on I didn’t care what game they wanted to watch. My friends were from the New England area so it would usually be the Patriots (or Tampa Bay because of Brady.) It was rare that the other TV was being used so we usually had two games on the TVs or one game and the RedZone.
• Soon to be federal inmate G.F. writes:
What’s up Joe? My name is [redacted]. I’m looking at 3 years myself… I go on trial this upcoming year. What should I expect? I’m located in Philly so I assume I’ll be put somewhere around here. But I’m 30 with 2 young kids.
Just wanted to get a better idea of what I’m going into and how to prepare my wife and kids before I go. Thank you for your time.
Enjoy freedom lol.
I confirmed G.F.’s story via a quick Google search. He’s definitely been in trouble with the feds and now, according to G.F., he needs to put in his time. Anonymous says he’ll contact G.F. about the experience he’s about to go through, but if there are other former inmates who might be able to type up a bulleted list, please send in some of the main points for a guy facing three years behind bars.
Look, I’m not here to glorify prison in any way. This is more about being fascinated by things like being able to watch the College Football Playoffs and how to pass time. It’s fascinating to hear things like how Amazon Prime getting Thursday Night Football will change the prison experience.
It brings up the question of will the federal prison system go to smart TVs in the future and get Amazon Prime subscriptions to inmates can watch NFL games? The former inmates I’m hearing from seem to be telling me that the NFL is good for prison cohesion.
Now we need a reporter to contact the feds to see if they’re looking into Amazon subscriptions. Or…are you a politician? There are many reading Screencaps. How would you vote on Amazon being added to the federal prison TV system?
90’s Band List
• Steve in South Carolina writes:
First off, I just wanted to thank you for the awesome job you do with Screencaps everyday. I am a pharmacist in South Carolina (a job which I love, but can be exhausting). The content in your column almost never fails to give me a good laugh.
As a Gen-Xer (I’m 43), I’m glad to see some appreciation for 90’s music from Ohio JT, but I have to take exception with two of his choices. I’m with him on Green Day (although I wouldn’t put them at #1), Oasis, and The Offspring being great 90’s bands. Aerosmith is one of my favorite bands, but they ARE NOT a 90’s band. Most of their best stuff came from the early- to mid-70’s.
Get a Grip was a solid album in the early 90’s, but it didn’t put them on the map. They were already there. The other thing that comes to mind with 90’s Aerosmith is “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”, a song that is about as uplifting as “My Heart Will Go On” and more overplayed than “One Headlight”. Same goes with Metallica (my first concert in 1998). The Black Album was solid, Load and Re-Load were okay, but any Metallica fan will tell you that their best stuff came from the 1980’s (Whiplash, Master of Puppets, Fade to Black, One, etc.).
In their places, I would suggest Pearl Jam (their most recognizable tracks came from Ten, Vs, and Vitalogy) and Soundgarden. I could even make an argument for Smashing Pumpkins.
Anyway, I really enjoy your column and keep up the great work!
If you haven’t already, I encourage those of you trying to decide on a 90s list to watch the Pumpkins live at the Metro in 1993. Steve’s probably watched this show at least a half-dozen times.
And I need to turn a few of you guys on to the best 1990s party band that happens to still be going strong — Guided by Voices.
That would be Dayton, Ohio’s GBV.
Lead singer Bob Pollard once threw a no-hitter for Wright State and should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pollard, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest song writers of all time, famously claimed, he “can write five songs on the toilet and three of them will generally be good.”
Dig into the discography. It’s extensive.
• Michael K. writes via the Instagram DMs:
I’m honored by the tens of thousands of people reading Screencaps on a daily basis and I wouldn’t be surprised if multiple blog outlets of relevancy are reading this column. All joking aside, Screencaps is what the Internet should be about on a daily basis.
Barstool guys aren’t dumb. They know where to look for content. OutKick writers aren’t dumb. They know Barstool will have must-see content. That’s how the Internet was when I started way back in 2007. There are so few Internet originals left. The big media companies have crushed all the fun micro blog sites that made the Internet so damn fun. We’re left with pointless arguing and less fun.
As for Dave and Clay, I don’t think there’s as much beef there as 3-4 years ago. Both made their money and are dominating their lanes. It feels like the beef days are behind everyone.
ESPN announcer rebuttal
• Alex R. would like to have a word with John in SD:
I watched the Ark/KU game and I heard the reference and he actually was spot on. The point he was trying to make was NOT that the Liberty Bow was the same as the World Cup final, it was that when you get to the 3rd OT and all you do going forward is 2pt conversions it is like shooting a penalty kicks. You both get a shot and if you miss it is over, there is not multiple downs or do overs it is one shot. don’t get me wrong Dan Mullen does not belong in a booth but the reference was ok.
(When will someone tell Dan Mullen the hair gel has to go he is not a 50s gangster?)
And if I have to hear Gus Johnson scream another play call about a 2 and 7 run up the middle I am going to lose my mind. When your schtick is yelling all the time you are trying to compensate for something. 50 yd td passes maybe, 15 yd screen passes for a first down no. When OU announced they were moving to the SEC my first reaction was well at least we wont have to have Gus Johnson calling our games anymore. Give me Joe Davis any day, that man can call a game no matter the sport.
Clearly, the SEC doesn’t care about bowl games this year…It Just Doesn’t Mean More® when it comes to useless bowl games…and Michigan didn’t get up for Central Michigan
• John in SD writes:
Walking away from football announcing tonight. Great Bowl Games tonight, keep them coming.
Transitioning to NCAAB: Central ichigan should troll ichigan as it’s Little Brother! This would be an epic moment.
Side note: sec is 1-5 in bowl season (yes, this includes de facto TX and OK)!
‘I Need A Recovery Beer’ stories
• Duncan N. in Georgia writes:
A few years ago I played in a 24 hour golf tournament – teed off at 2pm Sunday, finished at 2 pm Monday. The night golf was really tough, but once the sun came up, we had our energy back. At 10 am I cracked my first beer of the tourney, and it was the best Miller Lite I have ever tasted. That recovery beer helped me rally to the finish, and my partner birdied our last hole to win by one.
And finally, let’s hear from the world’s No. 1 ranked geoscientist, Rosie Moore
Rosie slid into my DMs this week to tell me the following:
Thank you, Rosie.
Now, go prove me right by becoming a huge digital content star. I still say Fox Nation signs her in the next few months and I’m not receiving inside intel from Fox people. Yes, I work for Fox News Corp., but it’s not like executives talk to me. It’s just a hunch.
That’s it. A full week is in the books, but remember, we don’t take many days off so Saturday Screencaps, the last one of the year, will be coming out tomorrow morning. Remember, it’s the end of 2022.
Get those final emails into the inbox. You’re running out of time this year.
Have a great day. Enjoy those college football games.