Inmates allowed to purchase MP3 players, music

A new program will allow federal prison inmates to listen to music on personal MP3 players.

More than 200,000 prisoners will be allowed to have MP3 players, which will be sold to them in the prison commissionaires, and choose from an in-jail house library of about 1 million tracks.

"The MP3 program is intended to help inmates deal with issues such as idleness, stress and boredom associated with incarceration," bureau spokeswoman Traci Billingsley told USA Today, adding that "keeping inmates constructively occupied is essential to the safety" of prison staffers and prisoners.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons is currently testing out the music program at a women's unit in West Virginia, but the program is expected to expand to the rest of the system later this year, according to Billingsley.

The list will exclude "explicit" songs, including tracks with obscene or racially-charged language. The prison-governing body can also prohibit a title that it determines may disrupt the good and orderly running of the institution," according to Billingsley. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will employ the same stringent standards set by the Recording Industry Association of America to rate the songs.

The program will be managed by an internal system, so the prisoners will not have access to the Internet. They will be able to listen to clips of the songs through their prison-issued devices and decide if they want to download the song. No taxpayer money will be used to develop the system.

David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, called the program a "positive step" toward improving prison security and said it would aid in rehabilitating prisoners toward their eventual re-entry to the outside world by providing a link to society.

However, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley said that allowing prisoners to have music could have unforeseen repercussions, saying that it is "difficult to see how all of the necessary safeguards can be put into place to stop prisoners from using MP3 players as bargaining chips or other malicious devices."

"It appears to be a risky endeavor and raises a lot of questions that need to be answered," he said.