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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Tech: Digital TV's Land Grab Leaves Prisons Behind

Having discovered that spectrum auctions are a clever way to impose indirect taxes, the rush was on to find buyers for ever more already-used spectrum. Lo and behold but analog television became the first and most conspicuous victim of that trend. That this benefited principally cable TV and satellite TV companies, already broadcasting in digital, was scarcely commented upon.

Digital broadcasting forces those at the very bottom end of the economic ladder to purchase new hardware; to this end, Congress created a multi-billion dollar program to hand out digital converter boxes — but only to households. Prisons, however weren't included in that reckoning, and that's causing concern in slammers all across the land:

“They won't give us the switches, we called them,” said South Carolina Corrections Department Director Jon Ozmint. “We asked them for the coupons and they said they're only available for households. I said, ‘We're the big house.' But they didn't buy it.”


Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist and prison expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said there is clear evidence that TV privileges can positively affect prisoners. At Indiana's Wabash Valley super-maximum security prison, he said, far fewer behaviour problems were reported among inmates in isolation after they were given small televisions and prison officials spent more time talking with them.

“You don't want to be managing prisoners who have nothing to lose,” Dr. Kupers said.

It sounds strange, but prison riots because of the unintended consequences of the rush to DTV? It wouldn't surprise me. All via a story in Slashdot (in particular, this Nymz journal entry found as a comment in that thread), which incidentally points out that Wilmington, North Carolina will the the first market to test the DTV cutover — even despite the possible complexities this will cause to any evacuation efforts that might entail due to Hurricane Hanna. Brilliant.

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