The music industry will soon have another chart to keep track of: jailhouse rock. The Bureau of Prisons plans to allow many of its 200,000+ federal inmates to own MP3 players and pick their own soundtrack to prison life, USA Today reports. The devices will be sold in prison commissaries, and though inmates won't be allowed to access the Internet, they will be allowed to choose from an approved list of around a million songs. Songs with obscene or racially charged lyrics will be banned, officials say, as will songs that "may disrupt the good and orderly running" of prisons.
The MP3 program, currently being tested at a women's prison in West Virginia "is intended to help inmates deal with issues such as idleness, stress, and boredom associated with incarceration," a bureau spokeswoman says, adding that "keeping inmates constructively occupied is essential to the safety" of staff and inmates. The program, she says, won't cost taxpayers anything. Among the detractors: Sen. Chuck Grassley, who warns that it's "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."