SPOKANE -- Three 42 inch flat screen televisions are in use at the Spokane County jail. Taxpayer dollars covered the purchases of those televisions. Jail staff said the TV's serve both a motivational tool and reward.
The mental health floor, one male wing, and one female wing all have the flat screens. They are often on from the time inmates wake up until lights out.
"If you look around the floor, you'll see most of the inmates are standing at their door looking at the TV," said Mental Health Supervisor Kristina Ray. "It helps occupy their mind, give them something to do and something to look forward to throughout their day."
Two years ago, this is not what you would see on the mental health floor of the Spokane County Jail. New policies greatly reduced how long these inmates could be let out of their cell. Cash from the mental health fund was used to buy a new 42" flat screen TV. The staff said it's therapeutic.
"It helps them focus their time and their energy on something else other than their situation, the fact that their in jail, their symptoms, how they're feeling, gives them communication to the outside world as well," said Ray.
The jail gets only the basic channels and prohibits the inmates from watching anything the on-duty guard deems is inappropriate. Similar flat screens run anywhere from about $350 to over $1,000. It is a purchase staff said even with an increasingly tight budget, is worth it.
Only the best behaved inmates are able to watch TV.
"The TV is limited to those inmates who are here helping out with some of the services the jail has to provide internally," said Spokane County Jail Sergeant Darren Lehman.
Jail staff said the male inmates, who have access to the TV, handle food preparations. The females take care of laundry. Staff said TV watching is a reward for doing those services. They said it is much cheaper than hiring from the outside to do those jobs.