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Prison TVs Going Digital With Taxpayer Dollars

January 20th, 2009 by flanews

A February 17th deadline requiring a converter box for analog TVs to pick up digital television is causing a dilemma for Florida’s cash strapped Department of Corrections. DOC has to spend 100,000 dollars to keep the TVs on in prisons. As Whitney Ray tells us, the demand comes at a time when the Department is cutting staff to make ends meet.

Hear it Here: Prison TVs Going Digital With Taxpayer Dollars

Just one week after cutting 66 probation officers, The Department of Corrections is making plans to spend 100-thousand dollars on prison TVs. The money will be used to buy digital converter boxes so DOC’s 1,500 TVs can stay on.

“This is not about the inmates; an idle inmate is more dangerous. Saying no to this is like telling our correctional officers we’re giving you less to work with,” said Gretl Plessinger, a DOC spokeswoman.

If the state doesn’t buy digital converter boxes, on February 17th, the screens will go blank. The department said television helps reduce inmate fighting. The Florida Police Benevolent Association agrees with the purchase but said more needs to be done to protect correctional officers.

“Our concern is an officer safety issue. If you have low staffing, if you have inmates that aren’t docile because they’re losing TV, you have officers at risk, said Matt Pucket, a PBA Spokesman.

It costs about 60 bucks to convert analog TV sets to digital. Regular customers get a federal coupon that cuts the price to 20 dollars but the offer wasn’t extended to states. Florida TaxWatch said that’s not fair.

“This is coming down from Washington. It’s something the state didn’t have as much of a choice of implementing, and yet they have to spend money to do it, said Robert Wiessert, a Florida TaxWatch Spokesman.

The money for the switch will come from this year’s budget at a time when lawmakers voted to cut DOC spending by seven million dollars.

TVs and other prison equipment used to be bought through an account funded by inmates and their visitors. In 2003 the fund was abolished and the money was put into the general state revenue fund. Last year prisoners and their visitors raised 32 million dollars for the state, paying for phone calls and food.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State Budget, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

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