Cancellation Of TVs Upsets Inmate Advocates

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Responding to the public outcry, County Executive Dan Onorato stopped the purchase of top of the line Sony Bravia high definition flat screen TVs for the jail, but not everyone is applauding.

“I’m very disappointed in him reacting suddenly to this,” Marion Damick said.

She is on an inmate advocacy committee which recommended the purchase of the televisions to replace failing and broken down ones in the jail.

Andy Sheehan: “Inmates are getting TVs that people at home can’t afford. Top of the line.”

Damick: “They’re getting top of the line because if you don’t pay, you get what you pay for. If you pay less, then they keep falling apart like they are now and you have to get new ones. That’s not cost effective.”

“Question is, ‘Do you need a top of the line TV?’ No,” Onorato said.

But in cancelling the TV order, Onorato goes further, questioning the other uses of the $2 million inmate welfare fund — money which comes from inmate commissary sales for the “welfare” of the inmates.

“I would argue this money should be allowed to be freed up for just general operation of the jail which we need,” he said. “Why should the taxpayers pay for it?”

Onorato says he will attempt to persuade the jail oversight board to redirect the funds to pay for operations.

“The guards, the beds – whatever it takes for us to supply the needs of an inmate – even the basic needs – should be the general welfare of the inmate,” he added.

Damick says she’ll fight that kind of use of the fund.

“The county runs the county jail. It is legally responsible for the bricks, the mortar,” she said.

The purchase of the top of the line TVs appears to be dead, but it has given life to a whole new debate over whether inmates ought to help pay for their own incarceration.

County Executive Vows To Take Action After TV Purchase At Jail
Allegheny County Jail Inmates Get New Flat Screen TVs

  • Thomas J Duttine

    Why do people like this exist?? If you are in jail you gave up your privileges. When you committed that crime you gave up your right to TV let alone cable. And she could probably do some real good helping someone who actually deserves to be helped!

    • domdom64

      Lets remember this. Being in the Allegheny County Jail, does not necessarily mean that you committed a crime. It’s mean that you have been charged with a crime and have not made bail. Jugde not yet ye be judged, we’ll all have that chance someday. Have you ever had a couple of drinks then drove home or been late on child or spousal support? Have you ever crossed against a lite, or been speeding? You would then qualify for a bed there too… Just some food for thought.

  • Critter

    If she is not a democrat , no one is.

  • SteelerFan

    I agree with Mr. Duttine, they committed crimes and jail should not provide them with the comforts of home. It’s supposed to be a punishment not a vacation! Who cares if purchasing those kind of TVs are cost effective, they should be happy they have TV at all. They should be preparing themselves, if they are released, so they don’t end up back there again. Not watching soap operas or Jerry Springer.

  • Rocky

    Why not use the money for there soap, toliet paper ect. that is for them .Take the expenice off the jail.

    • Sage

      Maybe because it’s their money, not the state’s money. Prison is the punishment, not the extra things you can do to your captive audience.

      • Bvar

        It’s not prison if it has all the comforts of home. The deprivation should be more than just the confinement. They should lose all the privelelges afforded to members of society since their crimes were against society.

        If you think just being locked up is the whole punishment, please lock me up in the Mariott Wai-Kiki Hotel for a couple years. I’ll get by just fine on the property with my 1 hour per day in the pool.

  • Joseph Puskar

    why replace all at once? there are refurbished local westinghouse brand 32″ lcd for 200 each nontax free shipping….it would be better than overpaying! has this deal so thats less than half even at that! why 40 tvs anyway!

  • Kathy Smith

    Tax payers are not paying for those TV’s, the inmates are. When a prisoner goes to jail friends or relatives may not bring them food, clothes or toiletries. Inmates must BUY very overpriced soap, shampoo, food, etc., from the prison commissary. The excess funds from the commissary go into the inmate welfare fund. I agree that jails should not be a “vacation” or “fun” or whatever other nonsensical words I have seen attached to prisons lately. I say nonsense because jails are not any of those terms whether they have TV’s or not.

  • Local1

    My father has had the same inexpensive TV for the last 20 years. No, its not HD or fancy, but it works just fine. So that bologna that you need to spend top dollar to get quality is a bunch of phooey.

  • angeleyesih

    sorry, but these people committed their crimes and they gave up their rights when they did so. That money should be used to offset any costs that the taxpayers spend on them to keep them incarcerated.

  • angeleyesih

    Oh, and “The county runs the county jail. It is legally responsible for the bricks, the mortar,” she said.
    Yes, it does…with taxpayer dollars. I think these people need to be responsible for part of that as well by using that money in the inmate fund.

  • Krystal

    Though I fully am against using tax dollars on junk, they earned the money. Since they ALREADY earned the money for toilet paper and soaps, who am I to say they can’t have a tv? It’s their money, its not an illegal drug and the bare bones jails have the highest likelihood for repeated inmates. Our justice system is broken, maybe letting them buy the TVs they worked to earn the money for would help them get a grasp on society norms. Maybe not. Either way its not my money being wasted so why should I care if they get a TV or not?

  • Critter

    Me thinks Krystal is one of” them”.

  • Hotel

    Looks like someone who would be on the citizens police review board.

  • NaN

    They could always go on Craigslist for free working tvs they are not top of the line but they work and it would be a way to recycle them :) I still have an old bulky tv.

  • Suck It Up

    Jail is for PUNISHMENT — any money the prisoners earn should go towards their room and board, not luxuries. Remember — they’re CRIMINALS — that’s why they’re in jail — it’s not a country club.

    • Donna Smith

      I agree with Suck It Up 100%.

    • domdom64

      It’s my understanding that the inmate welfare fund comes from the over priced commissary, not from inmate wages. This money generally comes from the inmates families for cosmetics and supplies. It is also my understanding that a majority of these prisoners have yet to be convicted, so they are not legally guilty of anything yet. I’m not saying they are all innocent. But the prison system is BIG Business. Have you watched the news lately? Jail guards supplying drugs and contraband. And how about the institutional sexual assaults. Just an observation.

  • Chris

    My job doesn’t afford me the opportunity to have weekends off. I would LOVE to be able to watch every Steeler Game every Sunday. This is why criminals aren’t phased by incarceration. Jail is supposed to be jail, not a vacation. They should also get rid of the basketball courts and the weight room. As far as the 2 million dollars that’s in the inmate account, how about restitution to the victims…….i know for a fact that they never see a dime for being victimized.

    • Thomas J Duttine

      HERE HERE!

  • Cactus

    Looks like witch in wizard of oz

  • Rondo

    I was in the jail and all they watch is channel 4, why did KD make such a big deal out of this TV business it’s a waste of time?

  • Mary

    In Arizona, Sheriff Joe ( I love that man) took out the TV’s, when he was required to give them back, he blocked al lchannels but Weather & Disney. Legally I only have to give my kids, food, clothing, & sheldter…….not TV, we went without it for years. I DO NOT think TV should be required it is a privlage, not a necessitiy. Wonder if they will buy me a flat screen??? I am paying for these one’s. When you committ crimes their are consequences,living without TV should be one o them!!!! It is a waste of our taxpayer money.



    • Pico

      I agree, no TVs for criminals. Steve-0 do you actually yell at your computer when you are typing in all caps? All caps…very nice (cough, cough). Tools like you give the Grand Ol Party a bad name.

  • missy

    Prison is not a luxury hotel, and fancy flat screen tv’s count as a luxury-NOT A PRIVELEDGE! It is appalling that these whiny advocates are so concerned about the inmates! How about you bleeding hearts go to EACH AND EVERY home of the victims that these criminals affected and give them a new luxury tv! Then let’s talk about the ‘rights of the imprisoned’!

  • domdom64

    I disagree with most of this article but will stipulate that if the inmates need new T V’s then let the inmate welfare fund supply what they want at their expense. As far as giving Dan Onorato a blank check to spend the inmate welfare fund, that’s a joke. We are all aware of our politicians being so fiscally irresponsible. They are truly the reason our society now has many good people turning bad, just to support our families and taxes. The ones that pay their salaries.

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