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Who's paying for cable TV in Vt. prison cells? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Who's paying for cable TV in Vt. prison cells?

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

We've been hearing from the public that Vermont prisons are installing new TVs at the same time the corrections budget is being cut. We wanted to know why and who was paying for them.

Vermont is scrambling to close a $112 million budget deficit. State officials are considering closing a prison. So why are inmates in Chittenden County getting new TVs? The simple answer: taxpayers aren't paying for it.

At the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, 148 inmates are serving time. The South Burlington prison houses mostly women convicted of crimes, minor to murder.

"Coming to jail is punishment. We're not here to create an environment where we daily punish someone for their crime," Superintendent Ed Adams said.

Adams says he's proud of the high quality of care Vermont Corrections provides to its inmate population, including opportunities for rehabilitation and recreation.

"We do not expect inmates to sit in their cell 23 hours a day with no social activities," he said.

Chittenden's latest project-- adding televisions to individual cells. WCAX News has learned the prison recently purchased 25 flat-screen TVs.

"It's a good plan to kind of keep peace within the corrections system," Vt. Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito said.

The 24-inch Samsungs cost about $4,200. Adams says the televisions, along with the $327 monthly cable bills, are being paid through an inmate recreation fund, not taxpayer dollars. Inmates pay into the fund every time they use their own money to buy snacks or specialty items through the prison or make a phone call. Corrections says statewide the fund generates $600,000-$700,000 a year.

"So, it actually takes quite a burden off the department of corrections budget and state taxpayers' budget," Adams said.

The Chittenden facility already offered televisions in common areas, but says forcing 30-70 inmates to watch the same show causes problems. So, this prison launched a nine-month project to get TVs into cells. The trend is not new.

"Northern State, Northwest, Southern State, Windsor all have televisions inside inmates' cells," Adams said.

"One thing to remember is that any idle time in jail, we have to manage that through correctional officers," Pallito said. "Watching TV a great way to have people doing idle time and being preoccupied and not getting into fights."

At the Chittenden prison, inmates now have access to 22 basic channels from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. No shows are blocked, but R-rated movies are off limits.

Adams says televisions, like board games and gym time, are core offerings and are not typically taken away as a disciplinary tool.

"Removing a television from a cell to do some type of sanction process would be difficult to do," Adams said.

Television rules like channel offerings and watching time differ by facility. But the Department of Corrections says it does not install televisions in any of its segregation units.

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