Big House, Big TV

Scofflaws are soon to be kickin’ it in style at the Wyandotte County Jail.

Unified Government carpenters are busy designing a custom cabinet with wheels for the inmates’ new, $1,300 wide-screen television with surround-sound capability; it’ll be rolled from pod to pod for the enjoyment of the best-behaved lawbreakers. Those who keep their cells and noses clean currently get to watch videos on one of the jail’s 25-inch TVs, but the 52-inch whopper will give them even more incentive to be good, says Lieutenant Walter Dobbs.

Sheriff Leroy Green got the idea for satellite television after he visited another jail with a similar system.

“You’ve got to give inmates something to do here,” Dobbs says. “If you don’t, they find ways to keep themselves entertained.”

Jail pods have always had TVs, but, Dobbs says, “Sometimes the inmates get mad and throw the televisions down. The inmates break them, and we replace them.” (Recently purchased, non-big-screen TVs are enclosed in Plexiglas and mounted on the wall to prevent damage, he says.) The big-screen TV isn’t anything fancy, Dobbs swears. The Sheriff’s Department paid for it out of the inmates’ commissary fund.

Besides, Dobbs says, inmates and guards alike can watch “instructional videos about educational things.”

Jail administrator Randall Henderson bought the big TV last November, but it’s been sitting unused for seven months because of a snag in part two of the rewards program: Wiring problems recently halted satellite-dish installation.

Dobbs isn’t sure how many programs will be available, but Direct TV satellite systems can get anywhere from 110 to 220 channels, a sales rep with that company tells the Pitch. No matter how many channels the jail receives, though, everything will be PG-rated or milder. “We’re not promoting any sex, drugs or violence,” Dobbs says.

“We have to keep the violence out of the inmates’ minds to keep them calm and at peace,” adds Green.

Dobbs isn’t sure how long it will be before the convicts can have a better selection of channels. “They’re still watching regular television. Most of the time they watch sports, but they also like to watch The Young and the Restless.”

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