Can You Have an iPod In Prison?

By Prison Insight Staff

Updated: February 26, 2020

Music is such an important part of my everyday life. My Spotify playlist is always in the background when I’m working, and I can perform full concerts with SiriusXM radio in my car. 

The 21st century has been a great time for music lovers to be alive. It’s easier than ever to access incredible music, and you don’t have to go to the store and buy a full CD for $20 to get access to that one song that you love to listen to over and over.

It’s impossible to imagine what life would be like without music. But, what about when you go to prison – do inmates have access to music? This leads us to today’s blog post: can you have an iPod in prison?

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

  • How do inmates listen to music in prison?
  • Can inmates have a CD player and order CD’s?

How do inmates listen to music in prison?

Inmates in prison have extremely limited access to music. Unfortunately, inmates are not allowed to have iPods in prison. But, in recent years prison technology companies like JPay and GTL have created special inmate tablets that they can buy (sometimes prisons issue them for free), and these tablets give the inmate the opportunity to buy individual songs or entire albums.

Of course, these items are extremely expensive (just like everything else in prison), as a monthly music subscription can cost as much as $25. The song library that inmates have access to is censored, as inmates are not allowed to listen to music with explicit lyrics. 

Inmates with these tablets are required to use their headphones to keep the noise down, but rules are made to be broken. Since most inmates can’t afford to buy a tablet or a music subscription, those who do have them will sometimes share with a friend so they can get some music in their life.

At the federal level, inmates do have the option of buying a personal mp3 player and music. But, it’s not an iPod.

“The MP3 program is intended to help inmates deal with issues such as idleness, stress, and boredom associated with incarceration,” said BOP spokeswoman Traci Billingsley, adding that, “keeping inmates constructively occupied is essential to the safety,” of prison staffers and inmates.

Can inmates have a CD player and order CDs?

Since I was in prison before they issued tablets, we were allowed to access music the old-fashioned way: with a CD player. Portable CD players are still available for purchase at the prison commissary, and they were ridiculously expensive. If I remember correctly, I paid $49 for my portable CD player, plus another $25 for the headphones.

But, the medal buildings we were housed in blocked all radio signals. So, if you wanted to listen to music, you had to buy CDs from a vendor catalog. We were allowed to have up to 20 CDs in our possession, and there were two approved vendors that offered CDs by mail. The entire process reminded me of my Columbia House days when I was in junior high, but there wasn’t an option to buy ten CDs for a penny. Ha!

The CDs were all censored (no explicit content allowed), and they ranged in price from $5 to $25. After you placed your order through your case worker, you had to wait for the CDs to arrive in the mail, which usually took about a month.

I still have my prison CD player and my prison CD collection. The first CDs I bought were Beastie Boys Solid Gold Hits, Dave Matthews Band Live at Wrigley Field, Dave Matthews Band Live in Central Park, The Avett Brothers Live Vol. 3, New Kids on the Block Greatest Hits, and Justin Timberlake’s FutureSexLoveSounds. 

I can’t tell you how amazing it was to put my headphones on and blast a Dave Matthews concert while I walked the track for some exercise. It took me away from my prison existence for an hour, and allowed my mind to vividly remember the summer of 2003 when I followed the band around the country.

It was the absolute best therapy in the world. 

Do you think inmates should be allowed to listen to music? Let us know in the comments below.


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