Jail inmates unable to watch TV

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

KRISTA KLAUS TV for thousands of Hillsborough County jail inmates went blank Friday, but it wasn’t because of bad behavior.

Inmates were left in the dark after last week’s digital television conversion because the 150 TVs at the Orient Road and Falkenburg Road jails are not wired for cable television.

“They’re not real happy about it right now,” said Rachel Quarles, detention deputy for the Orient Road Jail.

Manager George Wiehle is scrambling to restore viewing for inmates by installing converter boxes in the two jails. Total cost is about $200, compared with tens of thousands of dollars for new digital TVs. Eventually, the old analog TVs will be replaced using profits from the jail canteen.

County jails in Pasco, Pinellas and Polk did not report problems with the digital transition because they are hooked up to cable. Inmate fees pay for the service.

In Hillsborough, Wiehle said, “We had to work with what we had.” By today, Wiehle said, inmates at both jails should have access to five channels – the four network affiliates and a public television station.

According to the head of the Hillsborough jails, Jim Previtera, inmates are purposely limited to how many channels they can watch.

“It’s an effective management tool for us. It’s like dealing with kids – for good behavior you get television,” Previtera said.

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