Inmates in a Maryland prison at Hagerstown produce a closed-circuit weekly news broadcast for their fellow 2,000 prisoners, reports the Washington Post. The newscasts put a modern spin on a jailhouse journalism tradition that dates to the 19th century. These days, prisoner newspapers are dwindling or gone, unable to survive as more violent inmates began entering the system in the 1980s, forcing more lockdowns and creating tougher environments.
Costs skyrocketed, draining funding for inmate perks. TV broadcasts could provide a cheap solution for cash-strapped states shouldering massive corrections budgets. “You put a few thousand people together, and you have a community,” said historian James McGrath Morris, who wrote a book on jailhouse journalism. “A community wants to record its actions. In the 21st century, now you're either going to start a blog or a TV station.” Because the Internet is banned in Maryland prisons, wardens encouraged the newscasts to save money on copying thousands of monthly newsletters. They are recorded with personal video cameras more often used by tourists on cruises. There are segments on victims' rights, sports, prison rules, health, religion, phone calls, books, legal decisions, the chow hall, and watercolor painting. Some shows are simulcast in Spanish. Some programs clear up rumors that could cause tension with guards. One popular segment: “Life for Lifers.”