The Morning Call 1 May 1998 by Chuck AyersEmbracing a growing movement restricting inmate recreational activities, the Carbon County Prison Board on Wednesday rejected a request for a sit-up board and pull-up bar for inmate recreation. "I don't want to see the inmates in here bulking up and exercising and getting stronger than the corrections officers," said Commissioner Tom Gerhard.
"I can find a lot of push-ups and exercise for them on the outside. There's a lot of junk on the highways that needs to be cleaned up," Gerhard added.
Lt. Jim Youngkin made the request on behalf of the inmates who asked for the exercise equipment to supplement basketball, the major, if not only, form of active recreation offered at the prison.
Youngkin said some of the older inmates can't keep pace with the basketball games that are dominated by the younger men. To provide an alternative, Youngkin said, the inmates asked for the two isometric devices.
The impetus of the request came from Monroe County inmates being housed in Carbon because there was not enough room for them in their home county. By the time Youngkin made the request, those inmates had returned to their home prison, where shrinking inmate population allowed their return.
It is not the first time the prison has made such a decision. Weights were removed from the facility, as was a pingpong table after inmates broke the wooden playing surface.
Nor is Carbon alone in restricting recreational activities.
In Northampton County Prison, weightlifting equipment was removed in March when it became a source of competition among inmates, who would routinely pocket the machine's steel pins to assure they would have first dibs at recreation time.
The pins were often lost, making it difficult to use the machines.
Unlike in Carbon, the prison substituted sit-up boards and pull-up bars.
In Lehigh County, Corrections Director Richard O. Klotz said weights are a maintainance nuisance, so inmates have access to them only two hours per week.
"We felt the upkeep was too expensive, so we pulled it," Klotz said.
Even though the money to purchase and maintain the weights comes from the inmates' commissary fund that uses no tax money, Klotz said he felt the money could be better spent on education and drug cessation programs.
"Those things are more appropriate," Klotz said.
Weightlifting in the prison hasn't been an issue in Bucks County, according to Fred Groshens, county information director.
"Inmates have access to weights in Bucks because they are purchased with money from an inmate welfare fund. There was never any controversy because they aren't purchased with taxpayer money," Groshens said.
And the fact that inmates could build themselves into bigger, stronger individuals is not a concern, according to Groshens.
"These are, by and large, not dangerous felons. These are people who have been sentenced to minimum sentences. The hardened criminals, with some minor exceptions, are sentenced to state sentences. County prison inmates are not the violent offenders," Groshens said.
That philosophy coincides with the National Correctional Recreation Association, which supports athletics for inmates as a way to diffuse aggravation and instill discipline and other values.
According to a 1998 position paper by the NCRA, it is rare for a criminal to commit crimes with the help of their strength training. Robberies and such are usually committed with a weapon, the organization notes.
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