Can You Have A TV In Your Prison Cell?

By Prison Insight Staff

Updated: July 2, 2019

Binge watching a good TV show is one of my favorite things to do. I have been known to burn an entire weekend thanks to a couple of seasons of everything from Schitt’s Creek to Better Call Saul.

I know I’m not alone. With so much good TV available these days, how does anyone leave the house? I kid, but watching TV is obviously a very popular way to spend time when you are in the free world. Does that change when you are in prison? Can you have a TV in your prison cell?

In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:

  • Can you have a TV in your prison cell?
  • Can you watch TV in prison?

Can you have a TV in your prison cell?

The rules on this vary based on the facility, but usually an inmate in federal or state prison can buy a small television for their bunk. The first thing I bought when I got to prison was a TV, and it was a clear 13-inch flat screen.

All electronics in prison are clear, so the guards can make sure you aren’t opening them up and tampering with anything inside.

I purchased the TV for $179, and I also had to buy headphones because you aren’t allowed to watch your TV in your cell without them. The prison issued short coaxial cables so you could plug into the cable, which was paid for by fundraisers.

We didn’t have access to the internet, so no streaming sites like Hulu or Netflix were available. In total, we had access to about 40 channels.

We had local stations and basic cable. We also had a “state channel” that played a new movie each day. For a certain reason, they wouldn’t play R-rated movies, but this was how we were able to watch new releases and popular classics.

Did you know that Netflix still has a DVD subscription option? It’s true. You can rent three DVDs at a time and have them delivered to your home. The reason I know is because this is how we got to watch new releases in prison via the, “state movie.”

I couldn’t have made it through my four years in prison without my TV. Every night, I watched a Cardinals game on Fox Sports or a Kansas Jayhawks game on ESPN, and most days I watched the state movie. I’m gonna be honest, I had a TV schedule for every day, and it was one of the best ways to spend my time.

Here’s another fun tidbit, they still make TV Guide. I’m pretty sure the only people that have a subscription are inmates.

Can you watch TV in prison?

For inmates who didn’t have the money to buy a TV for their bunk, there was one TV in each dayroom that they were allowed to watch during daytime hours.

You would think that there would be a lot of arguments over the TV, but it really wasn’t a problem. Usually, the dayroom TV would play the state movie. On Wednesday nights when new episodes of Empire were on, that show was on every dayroom TV on camp.

In some prisons, the lifers control what’s on TV in the dayroom, playing shows like Judge Judy or true crime shows like Snapped. For some reason, a lot of inmates like to watch true crime shows, which I found to be rather ironic.

For most inmates, TV is a must. The majority of the inmates where I was incarcerated had their own TVs in their bunks, but not every facility is like that. However, no matter where you are locked up, there is likely a can’t miss TV show that everyone gathers around to watch.

What show would be on your regular watch list in prison? Let us know in the comments below.


Prison Is Not What You Think
  • Dear Natalie,. I read this article to gain knowledge for my Son & myself. He has been sentenced to 8 years. I’m disgusted to read your story. I hurt that you had to suffer this way as I am for my Son. Great to see it didn’t ruin your life. Thank you for info & a bit of encouragement. Any other insights you care to share, please feel free to email me. Take good care & thank you so much.

    A devastated, heart broken Mom & Son.

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