My favorite things on earth are watching movies and TV shows. I’m a pop culture junkie with a ton of useless knowledge in my head, and I’m not ashamed to say it.
My love of TV and movies isn’t about sitting around and being lazy. It’s the love of creative storytelling. For me, there’s nothing better than being invested in an entertaining story that keeps me guessing. I look for thematic elements, interesting dialogue, relevant characters as well as cinematography, lighting, sound and special effects in every medium I consume. I admit, I’m a nerd.
When I received two 15-year sentences for possession and cultivation of marijuana, I thought I would be cut off from one of my greatest passions. I was worried too, because I went to jail in the middle of the final season of Breaking Bad, and I think I’ll have to wait a few years to find out what happened to Walter White.
It turns out I was wrong to be cut off from the TV. However, I can’t enjoy movies and TV like I can in the free world. So, let’s talk about today’s topic: Can I watch Netflix while in prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Can inmates watch TV in prison?
- Can prisoners watch Netflix or other streaming services in prison?
- What is the prison tablet program?
Can inmates watch TV in prison?
Yes. Prisoners can watch TV in prison, but how, what and how much they watch depends on what facility they are in. Let’s start with the FBI. Inmates held in most federal facilities are not allowed to purchase personal televisions for their cells, but they do have televisions in lounge and entertainment areas.
This can cause problems as not everyone agrees on what to watch, which can lead to arguments. Usually, the OG inmates have control over the TV, and they make those decisions. In some maximum- and maximum-security facilities, inmates are locked out for much of the day. Prisoners are allowed to have televisions in their cells. However, my sources tell me that those TVs are provided by the prison ㅡ not purchased by the inmates ㅡ and will have BOP controlled programming on it, such as educational classes.
In most state facilities, inmates can purchase their own televisions for their beds. The first thing I bought when I was in prison was a TV, a 13-inch flat-screen TV for $179. We had to wear headphones while watching our personal TV, and the prison offered local channels and limited basic cable.
There is also a television in the lounge, which prisoners can watch if they do not have their own.
Can prisoners watch Netflix or other streaming services in prison?
Can’t. Prisoners do not have access to the internet, so they cannot use Netflix or other streaming services. However, where I am imprisoned, we do have indirect access to Netflix. let me explain. For those too young to remember, Netflix started out as a DVD-by-mail rental service where you could rent up to three DVDs at a time for about $8 a month.
You’ll put all the movies you want to rent in your queue, and when you return yours, they’ll automatically send you the next one. As it turns out, Netflix still offers the service today! The entertainment department at the prison I was in had a Netflix DVD available via mail account, and inmates would request the “National Films” movie they wanted to see.
One channel on our cable TV is controlled by the prison, and every day they run a “national movie” on repeat from noon to midnight. This is the only way prisoners will see new releases. There is a new film every day, and we have a film committee every month to help select films.
We don’t allow R-rated movies, so only G, PG, and PG-13.
What is the new prison watch procedure?
If you have a loved one who is currently incarcerated, you may be familiar with JPay, a Florida-based company that provides electronic services to inmates and their families. JPay is a service that allows you to send money and email to incarcerated loved ones, and some facilities allow JPay to offer video visitation.
Correctional facilities that contract with JPay have kiosks in common areas of the prison where inmates can check their inmate account balances and purchase commissary items and phone time.
Now that the company has launched the tablet, many prisons have begun offering inmates and their families the opportunity to purchase a tablet for a variety of different purposes. Typically, the tablets don’t support WiFi, but they can sync with kiosks to preview, purchase and download songs and other media content.
Inmates with tablets can listen to music and audiobooks, read and compose email, play games they have purchased, view photos and videos, access educational materials, read the daily news, and rent and watch movies. Services available on the tablet vary by facility.
So while they don’t have access to Netflix, more and more inmates are able to buy tablets to watch movies on. Of course, it doesn’t come cheap.
Incidentally, when I stumbled across a Breaking Bad marathon in 2016, I finally found out what happened to Walter White before anyone else.
Should prisoners be allowed to use TVs and tablets in prisons? Let us know in the comments below.