Inmates housed in the Federal Bureau of Prisons have the right to access law libraries where they can research legal issues and prepare legal filings. This right was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1997), which required each institution to “establish a main law library[.]” The law…

Read More

From within the belly of the beast, federal prisoners are largely cut off from the outside world. While some subscribe to mainstream publications and newspapers, prisoners are increasingly coming to rely on Corrlinks.com news services which deliver news articles via TRULINCS computers in their housing units. Each day they can login to their TRULINCS account…

Read More

In an effort to resolve some of the confusion experienced by prisoners’ families and friends when attempting to email with them, this article presents the central components of the external Corrlinks.com interface and, as such, acts as a primer to its usage on how to email an inmate. Inmates confined within the Federal Bureau of…

Read More

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy tigerdirect.com

Federal prison inmates are now allowed to utilize a MP3 player service.  This service, operated through all Federal Bureau of Prisons’ institutional commissaries and the use of the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS), allows inmates to purchase 8 gigabyte MP3 players for $69 and individual songs for between $0.85 and $1.55 each.

This article explain the various components of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ MP3 player service, how inmates utilize the system, and the various components involved.

Purchasing the MP3 Player

While local policies vary, inmates in the Federal Bureau of Prisons are allowed to shop at the prison’s commissary several times a month (most federal prisons allow inmates to shop either once every week or biweekly).  They are allowed to spend $320 per month on foods, drinks, clothing, snacks, candies, shoes, and electronics.  Certain items, such as over-the-counter medications, postage stamps, and copy cards are exempt from this spending limit.

While federal prison inmates have been allowed to purchase walkman-style FM radios for many decades, they are now allowed to purchase 8 gigabyte SanDisk MP3 players for $69.  These players hold around 2,100 songs, which can be purchased through the Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS).  They also have FM radio functionality.

Once an inmate purchases an MP3 player, they have to wait one hour, then they can connect the device to a TRULINCS computer in their housing unit and activate it.  At that point, they can browse the library of songs available for purchase and make purchases.

Read More

By PrisonEducation.com One of the most important concepts we advocate for in the world of prison education is the idea that inmates need to be prepared to be reintegrated back into the communities from which they came.  They need to be employable, centered, and have a greater likelihood of success in the modern world.  This…

Read More

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy lapd.com

Federal prisoners do not have access to word processors.  Instead, we have access to typewriters and Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS) computers which allow us to draft electronic messages — like emails, but not exactly the same — which we can send to approved contacts.  Since word processors are so handy when drafting and revising text, I often utilize the TRULINCS electronic messaging system as the next best thing to write my school papers.  By adhering to the six following steps, I can use the TRULINCS electronic messaging system to draft quality school papers.

Step one is to merely draft an electronic message containing the school paper.  I do so by logging into a TRULINCS computer in my housing unit, selecting the “Public Messaging” option, and selecting the “Draft” icon.  This allows me to draft an electronic message.  Once in the new message file, I can draft as I see fit, though this is done within the system parameters.  Two such parameters concern length of the message and time spent within the electronic messaging folio.  Messages are allowed to be a maximum of 13,000 characters and prisoners are only allowed to spend 30 minutes at a time in the public messaging folio.  As such, if I want to write a longer article or essay, I have to use multiple electronic message files.  Also, if I draft for longer periods of time, I have to log on to work, log off for the requisite 30 minute period, and log back on.  It can be expensive: using the service costs five cents a minute.

Read More

By Christopher Zoukis

As I write this, I sit at a TRULINCS computer in a federal prison’s housing unit.  A set of in-ear JVC earbuds pump out Bush’s “Reasons” hit.  This is accomplished through the SanDisk MP3 player that the headphones are connected to.  This was not the case when I arrived in the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2008, and it has greatly improved my quality of life.

Over the past 6 years, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made leaps and bounds in terms of the technology made available to the inmate population.  Back in 2006 — and in the early 1990s, for that matter — federal inmates were allowed to purchase Sony AM/FM Walkman radios.  These days this radio costs $39.95 from any federal prison’s commissary.  For as long as many prisoners can remember, these radios have been their primary contact with the outside world.  Today they are required to hear the televisions in inmate housing units, which have their speakers removed and are mounted high upon the walls in the housing units.

The technological revolution has also expanded to the Inmate Telephone System, where inmates can now place both collect and debit calls to their friends, family members, and others outside of prison.  Of course, most federal prison telephones now require the inmate to type in a nine-digit security code and state their name.  The name-recognition feature is to ensure that the prisoner attempting to call a particular authorized phone number is actually that prisoner.

While the Federal Bureau of Prisons has most certainly been analyzing these new technologies for quite some time, they have only recently become commonplace in federal prisons across the nation.  In 2012, FCI Petersburg — the medium-security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia where I am incarcerated — installed Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication Systems (TRULINCS) computers in every housing unit.  This coincided with the removal of all in-unit washers and dryers.  The trade was a good one.

Read More

By Christopher Zoukis

In an innovative move by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), federal inmates are now allowed to purchase MP3 players from their institution’s commissary and individual MP3 files through their housing unit’s Trust Fund Limited Inmate Communication System (TRULINCS) computers.  This system is offered via a federal contract with Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) and has now been implemented system-wide in federal prisons.  Private contract prisons which house federal prisoners (e.g., Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group) are not included in this service’s coverage population. 

Inmates may purchase from their institution’s commissary a SanDisk 8GB Clip+ for the price of $69.20.  These MP3 players, which have been modified to not allow for voice recording or the use of the micro SD slot, hold around 1,800 songs, contain a rechargeable battery, a FM radio, a built-on plastic clip, and come equipped with earbud style headphones.  They are very small, only 2″ high x 1 1/4″ wide (Because of the compactness of the device, inmates tend to make holding cases which can be hung around their necks to ensure the safety of the device).

After purchase, inmates are allowed to activate the MP3 player on the TRULINCS computer system via their personal TRULINCS account.  Once activated, each MP3 player owner will be allowed to browse music selections for a maximum of 60 minutes per day (in 15-minute time intervals), listen to up to 30 music samples a day (in 30-second samples), save songs to their wish list for future purchase, and purchase songs.  Through this system inmates can also delete previously purchased songs and, therefore, delete them from their MP3 players.

Read More