Keeping Calm and Carrying On: How Making Choices and Listening to Music Can Improve Inmate Behavior

Keeping Calm and Carrying On: How Making Choices and Listening to Music Can Improve Inmate Behavior
By: Brian Peters, Vice President – Facility Product Management

November 8, 2017

(PR Newswire) Studies have shown that inmates who engage in meaningful activities that keep their minds occupied while incarcerated have fewer violent incidents and better mental health and recidivism outcomes once their term of incarceration is complete. This can include listening to music, reading, communicating with loved ones, and even something as simple as having access to images of the outside world. One study, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, posited that prisoners who viewed ocean waves, waterfalls, aquariums, and other serene images were 26 percent less likely to be disciplined for violence than a control group.

In fact “Blue Rooms,” spaces where the calming videos are available, were named one of the top 25 inventions of 2014 by Time magazine. A Los Angeles Times article reported that select maximum-security units in Washington, Florida, and Alaska have set up their own nature viewing areas.

Unfortunately, a majority of inmates do not have access to streaming nature imagery. But that doesn’t mean facilities can’t reap the same benefit of fewer violent incidents.

Some experts say activities such as listening to music have similar calming benefits as viewing nature imagery. In a 2015 study, “The Impact of Relaxing Music on Prisoners’ Levels of Anxiety and Anger,” Drs. Bensimon, Einat, and Gilboa asserted that listening to relaxing music reduced anxiety and anger among a random sample of 48 incarcerated individuals. Dan Mears, a Florida State University criminology professor and expert in solitary confinement, told the Los Angeles Times that giving inmates any kind of free choice, such as reading a book or sitting in a wait room with music, could have the same calming effect.

“These are inmates who have almost no options,” Mears told the Times. “So, when you’re confronted with an opportunity to exercise an option, that can be calming.”

GTL recognizes the importance of giving inmates access to tools that can help reduce their chance of re-offending. Their Inspire® tablet program allows inmates to exercise options. Subscription applications allow inmates to make their own choices—whether they want to stream music, read eBooks, listen to the radio, play games, or do other activities.

Regarding music programming, inmates can choose from over 12 million songs with the Inspire® tablet, all curated for the corrections environment. Inmates can exercise free choice for on-demand music services right from their cells or other locations within a facility by having access to one of these secure devices.

It’s not just experts recognizing the benefits of music and tablets- inmates have spoken out as well. In a recent PBS Special one facility in Pima County, Arizona making use of GTL tablets, an inmate said, “There’s music on the tablet – it helps pass the time all around…It keeps everybody’s minds working. When you’re in jail, you have the same thing day in, day out. With these, you get books, you get music…they help everybody with their time.”


Brian Peters is a Vice President at GTL. He recently headed up a product team that managed the Inspire® tablet program and currently leads the product management team in enhancing GTL’s facility and inmate product portfolio. Brian is a 9 year veteran in the corrections technology space, has an undergraduate degree from The University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, and an MBA from Hamline University.

November 8, 2017 / Blog

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Keeping Calm and Carrying On: How Making Choices and Listening to Music Can Improve Inmate Behavior

In the push to reduce the recidivism rate, correctional facilities are moving away from a traditional layout to one that is designed for inclusiveness and keeping inmates engaged with outside society. Studies have shown that maintaining a support structure is a key component to keeping inmates on the right path to successful reintegration into society after release. In Australia, a new maximum security prison opened this year that includes no cells. Instead, inmates are housed in dormitory-style accommodations with 25 inmates in 16 ‘pods’ that offer more access to education, entertainment, and communication with friends and families. This novel move seeks to enhance inmates’ daily lives by making these services more accessible and improve re-integration into society. Inmates have access to technology that connects them with friends and family members, news, books, movies, education, games, and more. They are required to work for up to five hours during the day and pursue education and other programs in the remaining time. This progressive approach aligns with GTL’s vision of technology and education being available to every inmate. “GTL has the technology portfolio to enable correctional facilities to execute their strategies,” said Gad Tobaly, President, GTL International. “Whether those strategies are similar to the open-plan jail approach or focus on a more traditional environment, we offer the innovations to help facilities become safer and more secure while providing inmates with access to programs that improve their lives during and after incarceration.” GTL creates new technologies and advocates for tablets, education, and other programs to help reduce recidivism rates. “These new facilities highlight the need for technology in corrections,” said Eric Gonzalez, Executive Director, Technology and Implementation Services. “Today’s inmates are digital natives, having grown up in the age of computers, cell phones, tablets, and more. It is only logical that providing them with technology and programs to learn and better themselves through those access points is the direction that corrections is taking.” As part of GTL’s ongoing mission to keep our offerings in line with global corrections trends, the company will once again be a sponsor at the International Corrections & Prisons Association (ICPA) Annual Conference. This year’s conference is being held at the Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal, Canada. The conference theme of “Beyond Prisons: The Way Forward” will draw discussion on the underpinning philosophies, strategic direction, policies, and practices being instituted across the globe. More than 500 delegates from over 70 countries attend this prestigious conference. GTL and two collaborating organizations will present on two topics that relate to the use of technology in aiding the corrections and criminal justice systems. “Transforming the Inmate Environment: How and Why Facilities are Implementing Tablet Programs” will discuss how technology is used to humanize correctional efforts and will take place on Tuesday, October 23rd at 11:00 a.m. in Maisonneuve A Room. “Virtual-Enabled Justice: Delivering Swifter Outcomes and Improved Victim and Witness Experience” will discuss the use of technology to create ‘virtual courts’ that fuel efficiency, safety, and security, and will take place on Tuesday, October 23rd at 3:30 p.m. in Maisonneuve A Room. To learn more about our technology solutions, contact GTL today.