Weight Lifting in Prisons: a Bibliography
We provide this bibliography to encourage dissemination of these materials and to assist future studies of prison weightlifting.
The phrase "NEWS-" indicates references from the news media, "THESIS-" indicates thesis or dissertation, and"BOOK-" indicates a book.
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- An Experiment on the Inclusion of Strength Training in Offender Substance Abuse Treatment. D.J. Williams. Offender Programs Report, 5, 17-29.
- Weight Lifting in Prisons: A Survey and Recommendations. John Amtmann, Don Berryman and Robert Fisher. Journal of Correctional Health Care. Vol.10. No.1. Spring 2003. Pgs. 109-118. Surveyed twenty-five western U.S. prisons on weight lifting safety policies (performance of maximum attempts, educating lifters in how to safely perform lifts, having qualified personal in charge, etc.) Only 2 had policies regarding equipment use. The authors recommend the presence of qualified, certified supervision, enforcement of a safe lifting policy, including limiting one rep max attempts, having inmates perform at least six repetitions, emphasizing slow, controlled lifting movements, and proper warm-up and cooldown procedures. A more detailed
abstract is available from the journal's web site.
- Correctional Recreation, Weightlifting in Prison, and Rehabilitation: A Comparison of Attitudes. Thomas K. Anderson. Presented at the 2003 National Correctional Recreation Association Conference. Portland Oregon. March 14, 2003.
Presentation based on his 2001 M.S. Thesis at Western Illinois University. He used a survey to compare attitudes of members of two professional recreation associations.
- The Inclusion of Strength Training to Offender Substance Abuse Treatment: A Pilot Experiment Conducted at a Day Reporting Centre. D.J. Williams. University of Alberta. Empirical and Applied Criminal Justice Research Journal (EACJR). March 2003. [PDF document].
Individuals motivated to strength train seemed to do better than controls, while those who were not "ready" to strength train did worse than the controls. It may then possible to prescribe various forms of activity that an individual is ready to engage in, which may
also address a treatment need.
- Strength Training in Prisons. National Strength and Conditioning Association Journal. John Amtmann. Montana Tech of the University of Montana. Vol.25. No.1. Feb. 2003. Pgs. 44-46.
Article talks about the controversy surrounding lifting in prisons, research on possible benefits of lifting in prison (including his work on the "Over 40" program at Montana State Prison), and suggests the possibility of partnerships between colleges teaching strength training programs at institutions of higher education and correctional institutions.
The references below about a prison electric guitar court case are included
on this page due to those items being a part of the Zimmer Amendment that impacted
lifting in Federal Prisons. Comments on these cases have relevance to lifting as well.
- Electric guitar not a right, court says. Detroit Free Press (freep). Reuters. 12 Feb. 2003. By James Vicini.
U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia uphelp USBOP decision to ban electric guitars. This regulation originated as part of the Zimmer Ammendment back in 1996.
- Brett C. Kimberlin and Darrell Rice v. U.S. Dept. of Justice and Bureau or Prisons. U.S. Court of Appeals fo the District of Columbia Circuit. Decided Feb. 11, 2003. [PDF document].
Two inmates charge their first amendment rights were violated when electric guitars were removed by the Zimmer Amendment in 1995. This is the actual case decision. The BOP won, but opinion includes interesting dissenting comments from one justice. News report of case findings is in the item above this one.
- MSP Exercise Program Helps Over 40 Stay Well. The Correctional Signpost. Montana Dept. of Corrections. Jan - Feb. 2002. By Michelle Haseau. Although the article was published in Jan/Feb 2002 the article was priorly published on Corrections.Com on 12 Nov. 2001.
An update on John Amtmann's 2000 thesis. Montana Tech operated strength training, aerobic training and flexibility training at Montana State Prison for inmates over 40 years of age and found significant improvement in the health and well being of the inmates. They were also provided specific times they could access the weight lifting areas without having to compete with the younger inmates.
- Weightlifting in Prisons: A Survey and Recommendations. Montana State Prison. 2002. John Amtmann, D. Berryman and R. Fisher.
Article is related to John Amtmann doctoral thesis described in papers listed in year 2000.
- NEWS- Two California Officers Attacked by Inmates. Associated Press. 5 Nov. 2002.
Two officers were attacked at Lancaster. Authorities believe the incident resulted from cutting back inmate privileges,
including the removal of weights from prison yards. The stricter rules came after a Dec. 2002 riot involving 300 inmates.
The crackdown is believed to have also been the motivational factor in an Aug 12, 2002 attack on three officers.
- NEWS- 2 Lancaster Prison Guards Are Attacked. The Los Angeles Times. By Richard Fausset; Times Staff Writer.Nov 5, 2002.
Investigators suspect attack was due to a tightening of the rules at Los Angeles County's only maximum-security lockup. In recent years, state officials have removed weights from prison yards and imposed other restrictions.
- BOOK- Solitary Fitness. By Charles Bronson, Stephen Richards editor. Printed in the UK. Published 14 Oct. 2002. Mirage Publishing; ISBN: 1902578120 Paperback - 220 pages. Book is sold online by Bronson online and by Amazon UK.
Workout guide by an inmate who spent years in solitary confinment in the UK. Language is a bit crude.
- Recreation Program Changes at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Federal Bureau of Prisons. 17 July 2002. [PDF Format].
The first page highlights changes in the existing 23 Feb 2000 Federal Prison Recreation Program. It is followed by a full copy of the previous program. Total document is 29 pages long. A 10 page Appendix consists of the Question and Answers the government provided to assist in implementation of the Zimmer Amendment (Public Law 105-277 Section 610) which relates to weightlifting equipment, movies and musical instruments.
The references below about R and NC-17 rated movies are included
on this page due to those items being a part of the Zimmer Amendment that impacted
lifting in Federal Prisons. Comments on these cases have relevance to lifting as well.
- Prisoners' Suit Over R-Rated Movies Worth Another Look,
Says 3rd Circuit. Says 3rd Circuit. The Legal Intelligencer. Shannon P. Duffy. 25 July 2002.
U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision to ban R and NC-17 movies from prisons based on the decision methods cited by the earlier court in Wolf v. Ashcroft in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The ban originated as part of the Zimmer Amendment in 1995.
- Carl Wolf, Joseph Craveiero Jr., Douglas Nyhuis v. United States. U.S.. U.S. Court of Appeals for Third Circuit. No. 01-1869. Filed 24 July 2002. [PDF document]
Actual court opinion on the R and NC-17 Rated movie case covered in the item above this one. Has relevance to the Zimmer Amendment.
- THESIS- Correctional recreation, weightlifting in prison, and rehabilitation a comparison of attitudes.
Thomas Karl Anderson. Thesis (M.S.)--Western Illinois University, 2001.
- Measured and Perceived Effects of a Correctional Wellness Program. Corrections Compendum. Vol.26 No.9. Pgs. 1-6, 20-23. John Amtmann, R. Evans and J. Powers. 2001.
Paper related the John Amtmann doctoral thesis described in papers listed in year 2000.
- Down for the count. Salon.Com. 19 Sep. 2001. By Phil Busse. (prison bosing article).
This three part article was included here because prison boxing shares many of the issues raised by weightlifting. The article notes prison boxing has been reforming inmates for decades and investigates why the programs are on the ropes.
- Proposed Study Probably authored by or Jammie Price at the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice The University of North Carolina at Wilmington or a student under her direction. Uncertain of exact date, probably 2001-2002. [PDF document}
This paper (introduction only) reviews several studies of public perception of weight lifting privileges in prison and proposes a study in which some inmates are allowed to lift, others are not. Recidivism is tracked over time.
- Case Study of a Service-Learning Partnership: Montana Tech and the Montana State Prison. Doctoral Thesis. The Montana Tech of University of Montana. 2000. By John Amtmann.
Thesis describes an experiment at Montana State Prison where inmates over 40 were given a block of time for access to the weight areas so they would not have to compete with the younger inmates. They were also provided flexibility, strength and cardiac/aerobic training by Montana Tech interns. A series of pre and post questonaires revealed they improved several health and wellness variables.
The program was very successful.
- NEWS - Prison Guard Recovering From Beating. East Oregonian.Com. By Mike Federman. 9 Sept. 1999.
Near the end, the article references a prior incident in 1993 at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution where a guard was beaten with a weight lifting bar. Free weights were then replaced with weight lifting machines.
- NEWS- Locking up sports ESPN Sports Behind Bars 16 Dec 1999. By Tom Farrey.
- The effect of weight-training exercise on aggression variables in adult male inmates. The Prison Journal. Vol.79 No.1. March 1999. Pages 72-89.
This article summarizes Matthew Wagner's 1998 doctoral thesis at Texas A&M, The effects of isotonic resistance exercise on aggression variables in adult male inmates incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It also includes a very thorough list of references.
- Pumping Iron on the Main Line 1999 Prison lifting article on the 24 Hour Fitness Web site. It it accompanied by Weights in Prison which contains reader feedback page on the original article and a second feedback page.
- Weighing the Options. Recreation Resources. November 1999. Bob Tlustos of NCRA and I were interviewed for this article.article
It used to be posted at rec-net.com/rr/1999/1199/1199wto.asp
- NEWS- Area prisons allow inmates to lift weights. The Washington Times. 25 May 1999. 2; Vol.29, No. 49; C; Metropolitan Times, Maryland News Section. By. Gerald Mizejewski. Mike Tyson may have been accustomed to world-class training equipment and hired help to keep in top fighting form, but until yesteday he was waiting in line for the treadmill or running laps on a sun-cracked outdoor track like the 650 other inmates at the Montgomery County Detention Center, had access to about a half-dozen aging weight machines for up to two hours a day. The jail does not permit barbells or dumbells.
- An Overview of Recreation in Federal Prisons. By Darlene Veltri. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Presented at 1999 NCRA Conference. 4 Mar. 1999.
The presentation focused on several trends in the federal system.
- Participation Motivation, Physical Exercise and Psychological Well-Being Among a Long Term Prison Population. Garret James Busby. Queens University of Belfast (UK). 1999. Phd dissertation. The dissertation highlights the complex nature of participation motivation and the
often positive role of exercise on the lives of the long term prison population.
- Prisoners Losing Privileges, Privacy 'Comfort' Deleted from Constitution; But There's no Proof Tougher Prisons Deter Crime. The Tennessean. 6 December 1998.
- The effects of isotonic resistance exercise on aggression variables in
adult male inmates incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, a doctoral thesis by Matthew Wagner
at Texas A&M.
- Public Perception of Inmate Work and Unstructured Time Florida 1998. (Surveys public on prison weight lifting).
- NEWS- More Inmate Privileges Fall in Get-Tough Drive Prisons: Weightlifting gear is being removed and some lawbooks may be next. Critics fear tensions will rise. (California). Los Angeles Times.
9 Feb. 1998
- Triumph Over All. 24 Hour Fitness web site.
Discusses removal of lifting equipment in California, Brandon Hein's calesthentic / body weight workout. Excellent documentation of a workout without weights. This article may have been written between 1998 and 2003, but I think it was written in 1998 or 1999.
- Federal Inmate Sues USA for Weightlifting Injury U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Docket No. 98-2860. August Term, 1998. (Submitted: June 11, 1999 Decided: May 31, 2000). Dorrell R. Coulthurst v. USA.
Legal case summary of an inmate injury resulting from a cable breaking on an exercise device. The case resulted from an October 1992 injury at FCI-Danbury.
- "Special Report" on Georgia Prison Sports. The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Sunday 22 March 1998.
This article provides excellent historical coverage of prison sports in Georgia and the current prison anti-sports movement.
- Creco Bill Would Prohibit Weight Lifting, Cable TV in Prisons. Italian Voice. 19 Feb. 1998.
New Jersey Assembly woman Marion Crecco introduced legislation prohibiting weight lifting and cable
television service in all State and county correctional institutions including juvenile detention facilities.
- NEWS- Weight-lift ban unenforced in 2 county jails (Ohio). Cincinnati Enquirer. 10 Jan 1998.
A law barring inmates from using weightlifting equipment - which became battering rams during a prison riot
in 1993 - hasn't stopped prisoners in at least two county jails from pumping iron. Jail operators in Franklin
and Hancock counties say the law, which went into effect in October 1996, is confusing.
- NEWS- Area Jails Ahead of Law. Weight Lifting Equipment Already Removed (Ohio). The Cincinnati Enquirer. 29 March 1998.
A provision before the Ohio Senate to clarify a 1996 law that bans the use of weightlifting equipment for state prisoners
may be unnecessary for local detention centers. The changes submitted in January by state Sen. Bruce Johnson,
R-Columbus, also ban weights from county jails. However, Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, Warren and Brown county
jails have already removed weight machines.
- NEWS- Carbon Inmates Won't Get Workout. Prison Board Rejects Request for
Sit-Up Board, Pull-Up Bar as Supplement to Basketball. Allentown Morning Call. 1 May 1998.
- A clash over pumping iron behind bars (Rhode Island). The Providence Journal-Bulletin. 8 June 1998.
- NEWS- Prison Director Supports Many of Study's Findings (Iowa). Omaha World-Herald 9 Sept. 1998.
Note, this article references a very important study in Iowa.
- Should Free Weights and Weight Lifting Equipment be Available to Inmates? What Are the Alternatives. Corrections Connection Think Tank Question 19 Jan 1998.
This corrections bulletin board includes numerous responses to the question of weightlifting in prisons.
- Weight Training in Prison: Pros and Cons. Ron J. Clark. Corrections Today. Vol.60. No.2. Apr. 1998. Pg. 16. p16.
Half page article discusses the pros and cons of weight training in prisons. Talks about the Impact of conditioning on confidence, integrity and self-confidencem the effect of workouts on violence tendencies and the significance of weight training inmates in movies on
their perception of violence.
- NEWS- Weight lifting equipment stays. Enterprise Magazine. Politics: Florida. 11 Dec. 1997.
State prisoners can keep their weight-lifting equipment, but their behavior will have to be good to use it.
Sen. Charlie Crist, R-St. Petersburg, tried to get the weight-lifting apparatus tossed out of state prisons
and given to a district school system or charity. The Dept. of Corrections opposed, saying that prisoner
use of the equipment is a privilege and a provides staff with a management tool. The bill passes but with
an amendment that lifting of weights will only be allowed as reward for good behavior.
- Management Strategies for Long Term Inmates. The one year study, #96-463A, by Robert Hunter and Keith Crew
at the University of Northern Iowa's Center for Social and Behavioral Research was published in October 1997.
It recommends a "carrot and stick" approach to managing Iowa's long term prison population. The report said prisoners should be allowed to watch television and lift weights but "no inmate privilege should be seen as an entitlement.
- NEWS- Jail: Rough Road or Easy Street? Amenitites Important, Prison Officials Say The Hartford Courant. 4 August 1997 Page A-1. By Dana Tofig.
- "Weight Lifting in Corrections: Luxury or Necessity?" On the Line. November 1997. Vol. 20 No.5. Pages 1 & 3. By Susan Clayton. An American Correctional Association (ACA) publication.
- Public Opinion: Sometimes You're the Windshield, Sometimes You're the Bug. Corrections Management Quarterly, Vol. 1, Issue 2, Spring 1997. Reginald A. Wilkinson, Director
Thomas J. Stickrath, Assistant Director. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
The "Working Out a Weighty Issue" segment of the article discuss the removal of weights from Ohio high security institutions, a 1993 riot involving the use of weight lifting equipment as a weapon at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, how medium and minimum security prisons now only have access to fixed-weight equipment such as Universal-type machines. Free weights were donated to local schools. They found alternative fitness measures to enable the inmate population to work out aerobically, stay fit and reduce dependence on our health care system.
- Weight Lifting in Correctional Facilities. California. 1997. Sacramento, CA : Dept. of Corrections. OCLC: 43361953
- No-frills prisons and jails: a movement in flux. Federal Probation
Vol.60 No.3 (Sept. 1996) Pages 35-44. By. Peter Finn.
Lengthy well documented, very professional article.
- "The Great Dumbell Theft" Prison News Service. Spring 1996. By Jon Marc Taylor.
This article does a great job of setting the history and summing up the debate from both sides. It also includes several references. Although it is a few years old, it is a "must read" for all investigating the issue.
- "Georgia's New Commissioner Wants Inmates to Dislike Prison" Criminal Justice Newsletter. Vol.27 No. 2. January 16, 1996. Pages 4-5.
- Bodybuilding Without Weights. Lee Haney professional bodybuilder, 8 time Mr. Olympia. 29th Annual NCRA Conference Myrtle Beach SC March 6th-10th 1996.
Mr. Haney illustrates several exercises that can be done with your own body weight or against resistance applied by others. Complete with photographs of the exercises.
- National Survey Shows Prison Wardens Support Amenities. Sam Houston State University. Dr. Wes Johnson Flanagan and doctoral student Katherine Bennett. Results of the study were to be presented in March at the meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in Las Vegas.
- Provision to Eliminate Weights in Prison is Debated CNN Prison Weight Lifting Show. 22 April 1994.
Along with the 20/20 special below, these programs greatly increase public awareness of the issue.
- Bigger and Badder" Banning Weight-Lifting in Prison 20/20 Prison Lifting Special first aired 6 May 1994 Part 1 Part 2
The 20/20 Special on the heels of the CNN special was the first major national exposure of the issue. This was back in the days when CNN was a minor network.
- Prison Body Building Ban Being Considered. National Public Radio. All Things Considered. Date: 04-05-1994. Hosted by Linda Wertheimer. Copy of program available from elibrary.com.
Program talks about the beginning of a debate in prisons if inmates should be allowed to lift weights. It mentions the possibility of them being used as weapons and cites the Rikers Island riot as an example (a guard was killed with a 50 pound weight). It says some also
object when inmates use weight liftting machines and build their bodies into weapons. The story is told by Bill Cohen of Ohio Public Radio. He starts out at Pickaway Correctional Institution.
- Aerobic Exercise in Prison, Rather Than Weight Lifting. National Public Radio (NPR). Date: 03-26-1994. Weekend Edition - Saturday. Hosted by Scott Simon. Copy of program available from elibrary.com.
The County Board of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin has voted to ban weight lifting within the County House of Corrections.
- NEWS- Prisons: Building a Better Thug? Incensed over muscle-bound ex-cons, Milwaukee wants to ban pumping iron
among its prisoners. Time magazine. Date: 04-11-1994. By Jon D. Hull / Milwaukee. Copy of program available from elibrary.com.
Article talks of a specific inmate lifter, Big Amp, that bench-pressed 460 lbs. last June at set a prison record. He is now back on
the street, but many prison lifters are following in his steps using the gyms free weights and two Universal machines. It talks of one
lifter whose bench press went from 135 to 325 pounds since last May.
- NEWS- Rikers Island Prison Disturbance 14 March 1994. Strength Tech web site.
Note that some people say two guards were seriously injured by weight plates. This account
only mentions one.
- NEWS- Lucasville Prison Riot. 11-22 April 1993. Strength Tech web site.
These articles cover the 1993 Lucasville Ohio prison riot. It has been reported that inmates
used weight lifting bars to batter down an area in which guards had secured themselves and later a
guard was killed.
- NEWS- Sports Behind the Walls. Sports Illustrated. Vol.69. October 17, 1988 issue. Pgs.82-88.
By Rick Telander.
This was a landmark article for public awareness of correctional recreation.
- Strength Training and Leisure Counseling as Treatments for Institutionalized Juvenile Delinquents.
By Wayne W. Munson. Kent State, Stanley B. Baker and Herbert M. Lurdegren of Penn State.
Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly 1985. Vol. 2, Pages 65-75.
- NEWS- The Blotting Out of Time. Rick Telander. Sports Illustrated. Vol.42. April. 1975. Pgs.34-41.
Great article on prison recreation. Primarily focuses on weight lifting and boxing. This article is the predicessor to the 1988 article by the same author. Covers activities at the Illinois Penitentiary at Stateville. Includes numerous photographs.
- Importance of Sport in Corrections Work. Zetitschrift Fuer Strafvollzug
Und Straffaelligenhilfe. Vol.24 No.1. March 1975. Pgs.41-49. By Gesellschaft Fuer Fortbildung and
Der Strafvolizugsbediensteten Ev. The Journal was edited by B. Gareis. (West Germany). NCJRS# 30097.
Conducted in Ebrach, West Germany, this study emphasizes the physical, psychological and social therapeutic value of sports programs for inmates, especially juveniles. Sports activity is not merely an alternative spare time occupation. The study compared two groups of inmates and cites several benefits of prison sports and weightlifting.
- Johnny Gibson Ironman Great by Ken O'Neill. Published in Dolfzine.com in the modern Internet age (probably 2000-2005). This article provides the earliest references of prison weightlifting meets we have seen. It reports Mr. Gibson helped organized combined olympic style lifting and powerlifting meets at Arizona State Prison in Florence in the 1950's. Photos are provided of lifting at ASP Florence in 1963.
Content from some of the references above
"Pumping Iron Behind Bars" by J.B. Stephens #162957. Muscle Media 2000. No.41 Jan 1995. Pgs.142-144.
Let's begin with my credentials - shady, perhaps, but relevant nonetheless. I am 25 years old and have been incarcerated in the Missouri Prison System since I was 17, I have been involved with fitness and nutrition for over seven years. When I entered the Department of Corrections , I was a 135 lb skin-and-bones hardgainer with an attitude, a drug problem, and a 37 year sentence to serve. I had a learning disability, low self-esteem, and no direction or hope in my life. Then I began bodybuilding.
Today, I am a 175 lb lean-but-muscular hardgainer high on life with an open mind and a 29-year sentence left to serve. I now have a G.E.D., several college credit hours with a 4.0 G.P.A., a confident self-image, direction in my life, and hope for a productive future.
I am still incarcerated, but I am not a criminal. I have changed, not as a result of being in prison but because I was allowed the liberty of being able to weight train. The very first goals I set for myself in bodybuilding are today the cornerstone of my self-confidence. Everything I have achieved and everthing I shall ever aspire to is owed to that simple beginning - to weight training.
That's precisely my point in this controversy. We each have our own ideas about why we train, but we all seem to agree it is a productive endeavor. Weight training, especially in prison, is so beneficial. In fact, training in prison seems to provide unique advantages that are tailor made for the needs of the environment; it offers a positive outlet for daily stress and frustrations; it promotes good health (which reduces the tax expenditure required for inmate medical care); it's a means of constructive goal setting which nurtures self-esteem and confidence (dynamic traits which when underdeveloped, can contribute to various forms of sociopathy); thus, weight training in a prison environment stimulates a healthy self awareness which helps to correct social deficiencies and promotes rehabilitation. In these respects, weight training is beneficial, not only to the prison population but also to those of you who must eventually reside in the same communities with the 900,000 men and women now awaiting release from America's prisons.
I'm not suggesting that weight training is a cure-all for criminal behavior. We all know that crime and recidivism are increasing problems in this country. Nevertheless, these problems will not be solved by removing one of the few remaining means of self-development and rehabilitation that are available to prisoners. Weight training can and does promote reform - this I know from experience!
Despite its obvious benefits, many correctional and legislative officials have suddenly begun to oppose weight training in prisons. Their arguments, however, do not have any real foundation - as you will see.
One of the strongest opposing positions is the claim that weight equipment threatens the internal security of the prisons because the prisoners use the weights as weapons. I can't contend that no one has ever been injured with a piece of gym equipment: prisons are not daycare centers, after all. Nevertheless, if statistics were compiled on assaults in prison, less than 2% would reflect the use of any type of weight equipment. On the other hand, most prison yards have enough knives, buried in them to rival the Ginsu industry. Further, most prisoners think twice before attempting to misuse any of the weights; prisoners like anyone else, will govern themselves and protect their shared interests.
Another claim being made by these concerned bureaucrats is that if prisoners are allowed to lift weights, it will create bigger, tougher criminals. (Give me a break!) It does not require 21-inch biceps to pull a trigger! It does, however, take a lack of genuine social concern to waste time, effort, and tax money promoting such an absurd idea. There are real problems that need real answers!
These types of simpleton tactics, in mainstream politics, would not be afforded the price of any serious attention, and they would certainly not warrant the ink of argument. Prison politics, however, are not mainstream, at least not with respect to the public's scrutiny of the issues. Changes made within the prison systems are generally done without regard to public opinion. Nevertheless, I can't allow any political motives to affront the liberties of weight training - not in any environment! (I certainly did not support the FDA's attempt to regulate and restrict nutritional supplements.) Thus, I would ask you to ask yourselves: why has the legislative concern suddenly shifted from criminal reform to criminal prowess? Are all of the people incarcerated in this country so without hope that the government must be concerned with bench press records and biceps measurements rather than with levels of rehabilitation?
Inmates incarcerated in Missouri have two main sources of income - monetary gifts from friends and family and wages from prison jobs. Most prison jobs pay on the average between $7.50 - $15.00 a month. A prisoner retains his or her money on a computer account from which it can be withdrawn weekly to purchase perishables, beverages, cosmetics, etc. from the inmate canteen. The profits made from these purchases are then placed into an account called the Inmate Canteen Fund. It is this fund and this fund alone that provides for all of our recreational equipment, from the weight benches to the Ping-Pong balls. Although this financial system is the one used by the State of Missouri, it is not an illogical assumption that most states use some version of the "Inmate Canteen Fund."
In regards to the training itself, there are a lot of additional difficulties provided by the lack of equipment and the overcrowded facilities. Some prisons are better equipped than others, but as a rule, most prison gyms are always overcrowded, extremely noisy, and a lesson in patience to say the least. I have never in seven years, done a complete routine in the gym without having to stand around, at one point or another, waiting on a particular piece of equipment. At this prison, in this phase of the institution, we have about 15 flat benches for a population of approximately 1,000 men, one half of whom use the gym on a regular, if not daily, basis.
As you can see, training in prison has a lot of its own unique advantages and disadvantages. I hope what I have written does not serve any of you as a guide to future residency. I do, however, hope all of you, as kindred seekers in the fitness endeavor, will reflect on the points I have tried to make regarding this issue. Weight training in a lot of prison systems is being unjustly threatened, and your help is needed. This may not be a ballot issue, but voter opinion in any political issue is always important. Those who oppose weight training in prisons have, as of yet, presented no sound arguments, but they could still prevail simply because of whom this controversy concerns. It is about time for me to get to the gym, so good luck with your training, and remember, support fitness in EVERY environment!
A letter titled "It Doesn't Take 21-Inch Biceps to Pull a Trigger" (name withheld by request) is printed along with a response from an editor.
It Doesn't Take 21-Inch Biceps to Pull a Trigger
I have to take issue with the article titled "Pumping Iron Behind Bars." Although the author, J.B. Stephens, presented his case with intelligence and eloquence, I cannot agree with the idea that criminals, upon being convicted of serious crimes, should be granted what amounts to a health-club membership. And Stephens' assertion that weightlifting promotes reform among criminals is ridiculous. All it does is grant overly aggressive men the extra muscle power to carry out their hostile motives. Stephens' follows up his argument with the line, "It does not require 21-inch biceps to pull a trigger." This wisdom is reminiscent of the N.R.A.'s often used slogan: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." I lift weights and consider myself exceptionally strong for a woman. However that strength didn't help me when a prison-reformed, weightlifting-enhanced convict on parole raped me last April.
If it were up to me, I would have the weightlifting programs in every prison yanked. Let them take up knitting instead.
Name Withheld by Request
First of all our deepest sympathies go out to you. Regarding gyms in prison, we'll admit it's a difficult issue, and we fully understand your feelings. Still, condemning prisoners to a life without any recreation at all where they sit and look at four walls for eternity is probably worse than a death sentence. And whether or not bigger muscles on ex-cons are going to help them commit crimes is unknown, although we suspect that generally isn't going to be the case. There will always be the exception, though. It seems logical that a convict or ex-con predisposed to violence who has used guns or knives to commit crimes in the past will continue to use those weapons rather than using some developed pecs, shoulders, and biceps.
South Carolina - South Carolina has joined other states, such as Arizona and Mississippi, that have banned weight lifting in state prisons. The law went into effect early in July.
All Weight-lifting equipment was removed and will be made available to correctional officers and students at the state Criminal Justice Academy. Bans on inmate weight-lifting activities also have been proposed in Ohio and North Carolina.