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Zimmer Amendment Passed

When president Bill Clinton signed the budget for the Department of Justice it included a rider inserted by Congressman Dick Zimmer (R-NJ). In its entirety it states: "None of the funds made available in this Act shall be used to provide the following amenities or personal comforts in the federal prison system: (1) in-cell television viewing except for prisoners who are segregated from the general prison population for their own safety; (2) the viewing of R, X and NC-17 rated movies, through whatever medium presented; (3) any instruction (live or through broadcast) or training equipment for boxing, wrestling, judo, karate, or other martial art, or any body building or weightlifting equipment of any sort; (4) possession of in-cell coffee pots, hot plates, or heating elements; or (5) the use or possession of any electric or electronic musical instrument."

While the budget was not signed into law until late April, the BOP didn't wait for its marching orders and duly implemented the amendment well before then. Also, although the amendment only bars the use of federally appropriated funds to purchase these items, the BOP is using it as an excuse to halt the purchase of videos or films paid for by the inmate betterment fund. Since federal prisoners did not have in-cell TV's (except for those in control units such as Marion and Florence), coffee pots, musical instruments, etc., to begin with, the utility of the amendment is dubious. Some BOP prisoners have already filed suit, claiming that the ban on movies by rating violates the first amendment.

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