Can You Have A TV In Your Prison Cell?

The idea of being able to watch TV in prison sounds both far-fetched and ideal. Time goes by much faster for inmates if they are able to stay entertained, and what a better way to stay entertained than by watching TV?

In this blog post, we will cover.

  • Are prisoners allowed to watch TV?
  • Can prisoners have a TV in their cell?
  • Are there any restrictions on what inmates can watch?
  • How do inmates get a TV?
  • Benefits of watching TV in prison.

Are Prisoners are Allowed to Watch TV.

Many correctional facilities across the United States have televisions in common areas in prisons. It is not uncommon to find a group of inmates watching their favorite show. TV is a pastime nearly every American is familiar with, even if you don’t watch television, you are aware of the entertainment value it brings to others.

Prisoners are always supervised. Inmates have little/no privacy and that is because correctional facility staff need to ensure that the inmates are not posing a threat to themselves or other inmates. When prisoners watch TV, they are able to distract themselves from this constant surveillance, and other things they find troubling. TV offers prisoners a place to escape to.

Former inmates have admitted to watching programs from Survivor to The Bachelor- just because someone is in prison, doesn’t mean they have to change what they like to watch. There are some television shows and movies that are off limits to inmates, but that will be covered later in the article.

One of the most common TV shows that can be found playing on prison televisions is “The Big Bang Theory”. Inmates from all background come together to watch this show because of the comedic appeal the show offers. For those who have never seen an episode of “The Big Bang Theory”, the standard episode consists of goofy geniuses carrying out their lives. The show can be enjoyed by everyone, which is why it is shown in prisons.

If an inmate is unhappy with what is currently being watched on television because they wish to watch something else, too bad. Prison TV’s are a shared device, if an inmate wants to change the show, they will either have to convince the others watching the show to switch it, or suck it up and wait for the show to end.

It is important to note that watching TV, along with almost every other pastime, is a privilege. In prison, inmates have little say in what they can and cannot do. If a prisoner has recently caused trouble or behaved badly, correctional facility staff may revoke their privilege to watch television.

Can Prisoners Have a TV in their Cells?

Some prisoners are able to have their personal television in their cell – but they have to earn the right to have one. For the most part, when an inmate arrives to prison, they don’t just have a television waiting in their cell, they will have to display good behavior to earn the right to have one.

Some institutions do not allow prisoners to have their own televisions, while some facilities are quite accepting of the practice.

Keep in mind that even though a prisoner has their own TV doesn’t mean that they should only watch what they want too. Prisoners share cells, typically two prisoners to a single cell. If one inmate has a television, it would be the polite thing to do to offer the television to their cellmate.

Television can help two inmates become friends over their mutual enjoyment for a specific program; what once was just two prisoners sharing a cell together can be transformed into two prisoners who have similar interests. I am not saying that television births friendships, but I am saying that having a TV may improve both cellmate’s experience in prison.

When an inmate is able to have the opportunity to have their own television in their cell, the lag of prison is able to diminish dramatically. Prisoners are able to make the time pass more quickly, making their prison experience better.

Tens of millions of Americans watch television every single night. Watching TV gives someone the chance to relax after a hard day, it lets someone be entertained without requiring them to do anything. It makes sense that television is so popular in prison, a place where the only thing an inmate has is time to pass.

What Restrictions are Placed on Prisoners when it Comes to What They Can Watch?

For the most part, prisoners are able to watch whatever fits their interest. Major networks such as “ABC”, “CBS” and “NBC” all have appropriate content for prisoners to view. There are some programs that are unavailable to prisoners due to their content.

Prisoners are not allowed to watch select “R” rated movies; they are also prohibited from watching any form of pornography, or programs that show an excessive amount of blood or violence. The reason for this censorship is quite apparent, it would only cause problems in prison.

Prisoners are able to accept the restrictions placed on them when it comes to watching television or movies for the most part, while it is not ideal, it is much better than going without the TV.

Inmates like all sorts of genres, from soap-operas to action shows, inmates will watch them. People inside prison have been known to like movies and TV shows that star either Denzel Washington or Steven Seagal. The reason prisoners are so fond of these actors and the work they produce varies, but one overlapping theme prevails, the actors can cover multiple niches and genres.

How Do Inmates Get a TV?

The actual act of getting the TV is done through asking family and/or friends to either pitch in and all purchase one for the inmate or asking a single individual to buy them one. Televisions that are to be owned by the inmate are to be checked and screened before the inmate is able to take ownership of the machine.

Televisions can be owned in both low and medium security prisons. This is the standard across all jails and prisons that fit into this grouping. The rules regarding inmates owning their own television in maximum and supermax prisons varies on a case to case basis. Some prisons ban personal televisions all together, while others may allow them if the inmate has been displaying good behavior.

Still, however, some prison experts argue against inmates having their own television, citing past events of violence between cellmates or other prisoners at the correctional facility. Prisoners do not have much that they can “own” outright, inmates may have items that are issued to them, but nothing they can really call theirs. Owning a television could directly threaten the safety of an inmate. Jealously from other prisoners on the same block could overwhelm them and cause the other prisoners to make a move to steal the inmate’s television. This is one reason why maximum-security prisons do not all TV’s in their detention centers, for safety reasons.

Benefits of Watching Television in Prison.

Television distracts people. It was already mentioned how watching TV can help someone relax and unwind, the same is true for inmates who watch television. Just because a person is locked up doesn’t mean their interests and hobbies end at the door. Watching TV is a great way for prisoners to stay connected with the outside world, a benefit that is rarely mentioned. Certain television programs provide positive messages and silver linings, which can boost an inmate’s morale. TV can also motivate inmates, if an inmate likes watching cooking shows, for example, that inmate may be motivated to pursue a job where they can cook foods and desserts.

TV is able to act as a lifeline for some inmates. Television can help them by taking their mind off of the day’s events, as well as help to prepare them for the future.


What size television do inmates get to have?

It may come as little surprise, but inmates are not watching television on the newest 4K TV. Every prison has different rules on what kind of TV a prisoner may own. The rules outline the size, the type, and in some cases, the brand. Television’s in prison are usually flat screen and under 32 inches. It is common to see televisions that fall in the 20-inch range.

Do prisoners have televisions while in solitary?

No. Inmates that are segregated from the general population are unable to possess a TV. The reason for this goes back to how owning and watching television is a privilege, and if an inmate is in solitary confident or in segregation for the rest of the inmates, that is typically do to the fact that that inmate has not been showing good behavior.

Thank You for reading! What is your favorite TV Show? Let us know in the comment thread below!


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