Luxuries for Criminals: The MP3 Player Debate
The United States prison system is drastically over-crowded and, by its nature, an enormous drain on society. A new controversial pilot program in West Virginia is allowing inmates to purchase MP3 players from the prison commissary and gain access to a grand music library of more than one million songs. The goal of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is to implement the program nation-wide by the end of the year.
Why on Earth, may you ask, do criminals, being punished for their misdeeds, have the luxury of enjoying thousands upon thousands of digital music titles? Proponents of the program are claiming that listening to music can soothe the inmates and improve their quality of life. While calm inmates may make a safer prison, access to MP3 players causes a whole host of other problems and complexities.
Any electronic device provided to an individual with a large amount of idle time, can be turned into a weapon, tattooing machine, or other tool to be used for illegitimate purposes. According to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, it is “difficult to see how all of the necessary safeguards can be put into place to stop prisoners from using MP3 players as bargaining chips or other malicious devices…It appears to be a risky endeavor and raises a lot of questions that need to be answered (USA Today).” Additionally, there is the ethical dilemma of providing prisoners with luxuries that many law-abiding citizens do not have.
Furthermore, who will be paying for these MP3 players and music libraries to be instated in prisons across the country? U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Traci Billingsley says that no taxpayer money will be used; however, there are still inherent costs when staff will be managing this program. And, if prisoners have extra money for the commissary (either sent from family members or earned at prison jobs) to buy MP3 players, shouldn’t they be paying it back to society in some way?Continued on the next page