BANGOR (AP) – Will cable television tame the toilet tantrums at the Penobscot County Jail?

Only time will tell if Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross’ plan to cut down on vandalism and discipline problems at the jail by pacifying inmates with cable television will do the trick.

Providing inmates access to television is state-mandated but cable television is not. It has been missing from the jail’s common area televisions since the 1980s, when it was tried and removed.

Ross said he is reinstalling cable, at no cost to taxpayers, and expects it to be an effective tool in cracking down on vandalism and discipline problems at the jail.

“I’m using this as much to my advantage as theirs,” Ross said.

Inmates will get a larger range of channels to surf, including educational, history and sports, but no movie or music channels, which tend to incite arguments about the musical tastes of older and younger inmates.

The costs of the basic cable package will come from the inmates’ commissary funds, comprised of proceeds from food and other purchases made by inmates and required to be turned back to them.

As well as improved reception, the cable will provide a positive incentive for inmates to behave, Ross said.

An inmate acting up will lose television privileges, which becomes more of an incentive with more channels. If no individual inmate can be identified, as has been the case in some of the flushings, whole cell blocks will lose cable television privileges.

Unlike state institutions where inmate stays are measured in years, county jail inmates are more transient and the jails don’t have wide access to vocational programs like their state counterparts.

In Penobscot County, inmates have regularly flushed items down the toilet and damaged cell doors and other jail property.

Regular maintenance visits cost $25 and it costs up to $160 to unplug a clog and sop up the ensuing flood.

AP-ES-05-21-03 1122EDT

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