By Mary Drier
CARO — More than a few eyebrows were raised from the article in Saturday’s edition of The Advertiser about the cost – $7,500 – to upgrade cable television service for Tuscola County inmates.
Because Charter Cable television service is upgrading its equipment, the sheriff’s department has to make changes by April 15 in order to continue to provide inmates with television. The upgrade is required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete the change from analog to digital television.
According to Tuscola County Undersheriff Glen Skrent, there is more to the issue than what was explained during the county meeting.
“I wish I had been at the board meeting. I would have pointed out to the commissioners that technically the county does not pay for the cable TV, the inmate does,” said Skrent. “We make a profit selling (store) items to inmates.
“The amount of profit we make is a lot more than the cable TV bill. We are supposed to use any profits made from it for the benefit of the inmate.”
There were three options for the county commissioners to chose from.
The while two of the cable upgrade options were free, commissioners approved Jail Administrator Lt. Brian Harris’s recommendation to go with the option to install a “QAM” device at the front of the cable system service so inmates can continue selecting programing by turning the dial on the TV at a cost of $7,500.
The free options were to install a small digital box to each TV with a remote control in each cell or Install a small digital box at the front of the system where everyone watches the same channel and corrections controls the programing.
While commissioners balked at approving the expense, Harris pointed out television was a great baby-sitter, reduce fighting which in turn reduced injuries to inmates and staff; and although free, it was best to keep television remotes out an inmate’s hand because they can be made into a weapon.
The point of inmate purchases covering the cable bill expense was not covered at the meeting.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.