Inmates Have Access to Weights & Gym Equipment?
(Editorial from May,
2004 followed by visitor commentary)
The defendant, whose build can best be
described as somewhere between scrawny and gaunt, is asked by the judge to
stand for sentencing. He and his attorney comply. The judge hands down a
ten year sentence at a location to be determined by the Commissioner of
the New Jersey Department of Corrections. The defendant disappears through
a side door between two sheriffs officers.
Twenty-two months later the officer who
arrested the above defendant is handling a
first aid call on a front lawn
when he sees a figure approaching on a bicycle. The bike stops at the next
house over, and the figure gets off. The officer recognizes the subject
but from where. Then, the face flashes in the officer’s mind. The last
time he saw this face was when it was walking out of the courtroom almost
two years ago. The face is the same, but scrawny and gaunt no longer
apply. Instead, this subject more closely resembles an Olympic
boxer. (Serving only twenty-two months of a ten year sentence is an
issue for another day)
The above scenario plays out time and
time again, albeit, with different circumstances. Bad guys go to jail, bad
guys get released and the bad guys are now in the best shape of their
lives. Their “street juice” is enhanced by having done time, their
knowledge of crime technique is enhanced by almost two years with mentors,
and their physical strength is enhanced by a daily workout regiment on
The issue of providing inmates with
weight training equipment still lingers unresolved in many areas including
One television program addressing the
issue had a piece where they were interviewing a corrections officer. The
CO explained that having a fitness program served to occupy the inmates
and reduced violence in the facility. While we have no statistics backing
up that position, it does makes sense. It is important too that we provide
CO’s and facilities with resources to keep them safe.
However, after seeing this scenario
repeat itself and having to confront these super-criminals, we are
strongly opposed to inmates having any weight training equipment
accessible to them.
Law enforcement will be dealing with most
of these inmates again after their release. According to the United
States Department of Justice, “an estimated 67.5% [of persons
released from prisons] were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor
within 3 years.”
When these subsequent dealings take
place, the former inmate is much stronger, much quicker, and much faster,
all courtesy of the funds deducted from your paycheck every other week.
If it is not law enforcement who must
face these super-criminals, it may be our citizenry who don’t have a
belt filled with toys or a radio to call for help.
If a program or programs are needed to
replace weight training in order to keep inmates occupied and reduce
violence, something should be implemented. We have to support our
CO's. But, it should not be anything that can further their
abilities to commit violent crime.
Frankly, I would rather buy them Sony
Playstations than have them spending an afternoon on a bench press.
What are your thoughts?
June 10, 2004
only serve to put the public and the law enforcement community at further
risk once the offender is released. We need every advantage we can
-Probation Officer, State of NJ, Trenton
June 5, 2004
of the gyms and make them go through bootcamp drills like obstacle
courses. Then broadcast them on public TV as a reality TV show. Take the
proceeds of the show to renovate old police stations and/or increase
police officers/COs salaries and benefits. Everybody wins."
June 1, 2004
has been made. Can we change the practice. At age 44 I don't appreciate
wrestling with people at 4am. Bring this up in meetings at your local and
push for change. A small town cop in North Jersey."
May 30, 2004
would like to say that I am a NJ State Correctional Officer. I can't
say where I work or my name for fear of repercussions.
I find the
idea that inmates have access to weight lifting equipment and heavy and
speed bags disturbing, irresponsible, and dangerous. Any C/O who
believes that weight training of inmates is a good idea has never had to
face down one of these individuals when they are pumped and pissed
off. I think some sort of hard labor program to fill their days is a
better idea. This would serve to tire them and make them less of a
never lose sight of the fact that these individuals have a total disregard
for moral and civil law and helping them become more fit for their future
crime endeavors is criminal itself. As long as here in New Jersey we
have a be-kind-to-inmates commissioner of the DOC and the ACLU, we must
face that our prisons are just a training and fitness camp for
May 27, 2004
strongly agree, not only are they becoming stronger and more fit, but what
happens to someone's ego when they feel bigger and more powerfull, they
now think they can take on the world as well as the next CO that
approaches them in lock-up. This could be the same CO who may only
make it to the gym 2 or 3 times a week due to his/her first priority of
making a living.
We all know
how size and strength fuel your ego and attitude, and this makes a bad
environment worse. The safety of our CO's should be first!"
May 26, 2004
agree, take away the weights. That wont stop them from other jail house
type of work outs but it will slow down their results. It will also
take away weapons of choice. As a C/O, I saw what weights can do
when used as a weapon. In the mean time the best thing we could do as
LEO's is to hit the gym's ourselves and train hard."
May 22, 2004
a former county C/O, when I first started I remember not having a clue why
the inmates were allowed CABLE TV. Talking to the Warden one day he
explained to me that when he makes his rounds looking into the dayrooms
and seeing all those inmates eyes glued to what he called, "the
babysitter" was a good thing because having them occupied by Jerry
Springer was better than having them completing jumping out of their skin
because of boredom. To say the least I still disagreed, I have to pay for
the cable in my house that's always going out when the wind blows too
hard. I believe we allow inmates way too many luxuries. I am from Texas,
and the things that go on hear are unheard of down South. Where I come
from, you don't want to go to jail or ever go back if you ever do and that's
the way the system should be designed. They shouldn't be allowed weights
for any reason, who cares about their health, the ones who committed
assault or murder on the outside obviously didn't care about their victims
health. Forget about the inmates, what about the forgotten heroes, the
C/O's who put up with those bag nasty inmates daily? Corrections was not
for me, having to deal with those disgusting animals for the short period
of time I was there was enough for me. Going into law enforcement, I am
more concerned of the affect that those monsters will have on society when
they are released, because in this state most of them will be, and my
biggest concern lies for brother and sister officers who will most likely
be dealing with them again.
College degrees, rehabilitation? right...how about work farms like Angola,
and chain gangs. Let's try to make it so they don't want to be go back to
being incarcerated, instead of always trying to think of new things to
make our jails and prisons better."
May 22, 2004
worked in Corrections in 2 states for over 4 years, and I have to say that
any weight training equipment for inmates is a bad idea. They have nothing
else to do but lift weights, and think of ways to hurt CO's. If the powers
that be want to keep the equipment for the inmates, then the same
equipment and the opportunity to use it must be provided to staff.
However, that would do nothing to protect the public once the inmates are
released. Where I worked, the inmates would get burned out on crack or
crank, then be arrested and do a year or two in prison to get bulked up.
It's a cycle I was able to see time and time again."
May 22, 2004
a CO myself, I have seen this played out numerous times. You see an
inmate come in tiny and the next time you see him a year down the road he
is huge. Sure, it gives them an outlet and something to do, but what
happens when said monster gets a parole hit, or a Dear John letter and
decides to take it out on you? I say take the equipment away and let
them do the hard time it is supposed to be!"
May 16, 2004
think the warden who runs a tent correctional facility in Texas is doing
it right. You want physical activity...here is a badmitten racquet
and a birdie, now go play nice, nice with the other inmates. No
weights plus no gyms equals no larger than life prisoners who are capable
of kicking the prison guards asses up and down the halls. It's that
simple, no weights. Why are we allowing these animals to have access
to enhance their abilities to become bigger, faster, stronger and
subsequently more efficient at what they do. They are in jail, not
at the spa. I pay good money every month to up hold a membership to
a reputable gym, and do so while not breaking any laws. They want
activities, let them play tidily-winks, or checkers. These inmates
are leaving prisons bigger and badder than when they first entered.
Hopefully, when they re-attack, and they normally do, it will be the loved
one of some bleeding heart liberal who thinks they should have the right
to work out and express themselves while they are incarcerated. Just
a few thoughts."
May 16, 2004
WOULD STILL HAVE THE SAME BUILD BECAUSE THEY WILL JUST DO THOUSANDS OF
May 14, 2004
give them some vocational training like basket weaving to occupy their
time! Playstations are a great idea too, Disney has some great
titles! Utmost, whatever protects the Corrections Officer inside
(and outside too) as well as other law enforcement when these miscreants
"graduate" is the most important deciding factor as to what to
do with them inside."
May 13, 2004
many argue that the use of weights while in prison helps the inmate deal
with stress better. I completely disagree with inmates having access
to weights. Many inmates who try to become fit while in jail do push
ups and sit up in their cell because quite honestly they have nothing
better to do. But, by providing them with weights creates an extreme
disadvantage to the Officers. In short no the inmates should not
have the use of weights."
-Jeffery A. Nealis
-Senior Correction Officer
-New Jersey State Prison
May 13, 2004
worked in the NJ prison system for over 14 yrs. as an officer and now as a
Sgt. Violent people are violent regardless of weight training.
I have seen inmates that lift weights daily go off and I have seen just as
many "soft" inmates go off. An angry, out of control
person can inflict as much damage as he wants to. If any kind of
weapon is available, he will use it no matter how strong he is. If
you take away the weights and give them all Playstations or force them to
watch educational programming, he is still violent. If only it were that
May 13, 2004
some may assert that having weight lifting equipment in prisons reduces
violence, the potential for inmates to become a greater physical threat
out-weighs the benefits. Violence, and the transmission of criminal
ideas/techniques in prisons could be reduced by separating gang members,
and inmates known to conspire together. Also, inmates must be given
something constructive to do besides sitting in their cells and watching TV.
Inmates would have less time to conspire if, they had to grow and prepare
all of their food. That would also make the inmates dependent upon each
other for their well being, and farming without machinery is physically
rigorous, therefore giving them the exercise they need. Their tasks
shouldn't be limited to just growing food, any activity that requires
group effort and leads to a final product that is beneficial to the inmate
population is worth looking in to. I would prefer that my tax dollars that
are spent in corrections turn convicts into productive members of society,
instead of making them more physically and mentally dangerous when they
May 13, 2004
totally agree. Scrap all the weights throughout the entire prison
system in the country. Like we are not at a disadvantage enough
May 12, 2004
Playstation comment as I scrolled down was almost spooky. I thought
the same thing when I read the "occupy the inmates and reduce
violence" part. How about a deck of cards? Just pulling
the weights out of the jails may not be enough either, some guys on my
Dept. used to be CO's in out local jail (Atlantic County Justice Facility)
and said they pulled the weights from the inmates and they started lifting
trash bags full of water. Remember the academy when you could barely
keep weight on from all that running? Let's hear it for boot camp.
I'll take skinny and fast over "Prison Pump" in an adversary any day."
May 11, 2004 (Very
Well Written Piece)
been a State Corrections Officer, I questioned the policies of allowing
inmates to become even stronger than we, who are responsible to try to
control them. At COTA (Correction Officer's Training Academy) we
were told, as you reported, that the weight equipment was provided to
occupy time, but also to reduce stress and tension, thereby hopefully
preventing the buildup of aggression and rage. Simply, they told us
the inmates would be too tired to want to fight. Is it just me who
thinks you gain energy when you work out daily?
I have never
believed that we should pay to make the inmates stronger and bigger, nor
do I believe that they should emerge from prison with a college degree
just like the one I can't afford, better dental care than I can afford,
etc. In my opinion, though, none are as dangerous to Corrections and
Police officers, or the general public, as the weights.
We knew they
were being "tutored" in tactics, evasion and other criminal
skills. We even have video of inmates practicing to stab an officer
while being frisked. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that they
come out of prison, not rehabilitated, but as better, more efficient
criminals. Now, when you find them in your house at 3:00 in the
morning, and they've just taken a peculiar liking to your wife or
daughter, you can look forward to fighting not a normal human, but someone
who has eaten almost solid starch and lifted heavily every day for years.
Your chances, I'm sorry to say, aren't that good anymore.
officers, look forward to having to deal with people who, armed or not,
may push you all the way to killing them in order to go home to your
family. We all know they train for gun takeaways, but now they're
five times stronger when they do it. Corrections Officers, you must
deal with them unarmed and outnumbered.
For my tax money, close the gyms to the inmates and allow the COs to work
out on their breaks. THEY should be the ones we pay to make
If the inmates
want to keep themselves healthy and lengthen their lives, I won't stop
them from walking a half hour a day, or doing some pushups and sit-ups,
but they neither need, nor deserve weight gyms. Let's follow the
lead of some of the western Jails, and bring these animals back to
reality. Jails and prisons are places you're not supposed to like.
Why should they have anything that our troops, living honorably and
serving our best interests, don't have?"
May 11, 2004
a NJ State Corrections officer myself, I can attest to the double edge
sword of allowing Inmates the use of free weights. While it does to a
degree give the inmates an outlet to release tension and animosity, other
than against another Inmate, or worse yet a Corrections officer. The down
side is that when a violent incident does occur the excellent conditioning
and strength of the Inmate works against the arresting officers. I
would propose a compromise. There are many conditioning programs that lead
towards good physical health and conditioning without the use of free weights which
add the bulk and excessive strength). Treadmills, various machines which
limit resistance to a few hundred pounds, along with sports such as
baseball, basketball etc. all can lead to physical conditioning and work
off frustration without excessive muscle mass and strength."
-SCO Dan McNeill
-NJ Dept. Of Corrections, SSCF email@example.com
May 11, 2004
THE WEIGHTS AWAY. I SEE THIS EVERY DAY A SKINNY MAN GOES AWAY THEN COMES
BACK BUILT LIKE A HOUSE WITH AN ATTITUDE."
May 11, 2004
"I think that
it is fair to let some exercise take place in a gym. But let that
exercise focus on cardiovascular exercise in lieu of muscle building
exercise. There can be a medium for allowing inmates to exercise while not
giving them the free weights to build into Hulk Hogan's while they serve
May 10, 2004
"Let them eat cake!
Seriously, continue to have them work their hours away with menial,
helpful tasks, such as cleaning the facility, manufacturing products