It’s been a while since I actually sat down in front of the TV to watch an institutional movie. Part of that is because I’m often preoccupied doing other things (such as writing this article) but mainly it’s because the movies we get most often aren’t of any interest to me. And I would have to say that most of the men here with me feel the same because frequently the institu-tional movie is not even playing on one of the five TV’s out here in the day room during the scheduled play time. This particular institution might have an institutional movie program that’s worse than most, but none of them are worth the money we have invested into them.
Back in the mid 1990’s the “Zimmerman Bill” was pushed thru Congress as a “rider amend-ment” attached to the “Omnibus Bill” because the cry in Congress was to “get tough on criminals.” The bill required the FBOP to eliminate the weights, supplements, porn-ography, certain musical instruments and art supplies, and R-Rated movies. Ironically, Representative Zimmerman, the bills namesake, was indicted shortly after it’s passage and pushed out of office on account of his own moral corruption. Unfortunately the damage was already done and there would be no call to repeal the bill because no one wanted to be perceived as “soft on criminals” back then, much as it remains still to this day.
I cannot recall any Academy Award nominated movies in recent years that received either a PG or PG-13 rating. As a result, none of us here in the FBOP will be able to view any of those highly acclaimed movies unless and until they make their way to network television due to the R-Rating prohibition that still exists in the federal system. It seems odd to me that all of the state systems I’m familiar with have no problem with R-Rated movies in general, and they are somehow able to identify and restrict specific movies that do contain scenes that pose a genuine “security concern.”
Furthermore, I find it difficult to believe that there is not someone within the FBOP Admin-istration who is capable of making such a judgment on a week to week or month to month basis concerning all newly released movies anticipated for viewing by the general population. If such an individual could be identified, I would have a specific suggestion for he or she that would undoubtedly allow institutional movie programs to function much more effectively and cost efficiently.
Most federal facilities currently use the Netflix mail-order DVD subscription service on a weekly basis, and also pay yearly “licensing fees” (intended for commercial establishments that make money from mass movie viewing, which the FBOP does not). It seems like it would be in everyone’s best interest to establish a contract directly with Netflix so that we can eliminate the unnecessary licensing fees and negotiate a reduced rate for the entire system. Movies could be STREAMED online thru the Bureau’s computer network so that the entire federal prison population could look forward to viewing the latest releases every weekend. The money for this program would continue to come out of the inmate trust fund which is generated by a 30% mark-up on ALL institutional commissary sales. All the funds that are being squandered under the current system could be reallocated to other inmate programs in great need.
So here’s YOUR opportunity to make an impact felt nationwide. Why don’t YOU sit down and draft an email or a letter to an individual, office or organization that might be able to help make this idea, or something similar, a reality. Who knows what doors might be opened as a result of YOUR efforts. Whatever response you receive we would be happy to print right here. Here’s your chance to step up and get involved. What have you got to lose? Nothing ventured is nothing gained. Good Luck!