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Florida inmate: Two thumbs down and a lawsuit for jail's movie reruns

By Rich Phillips, CNN Senior Producer
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Inmate demanding better TV choices
  • A Florida jail inmate says watching the jail's few movies over and over is "torture"
  • Jail officials say they don't have cable TV for cost reasons, but they do have movies and DVDs
  • The inmate wants to take it to court
  • He's been at the jail nearly four years after filing 15 court motions delaying his trial

Sharpes, Florida (CNN) -- For most, jail may well be an unpleasant experience. Some facilities are rough and tough places, serving bad food and filled with a whole host of society's underachievers.

Meanwhile, one Florida jail is being sued by one of its inmates who says he's being tortured -- because he has to watch the same movies over and over again.

"It's a lot like Chinese water torture," said James Poulin.

In an interview with CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13, Poulin said that the Brevard County Detention Center's inmates aren't able to watch regular television and are forced to watch the same movies repeatedly.

Movies like wartime epics "Saving Private Ryan," and "Black Hawk Down," and the holiday classic "Polar Express," with its boisterous children on a speeding train.

"I hear those little kids screaming through my brain. All night long I can hear them," Poulin said

"I can close my eyes, but I'm still going to hear them over and over and over," he added.

Poulin has been at the jail for almost four years now, so it's not too surprising that he's seen a couple of the features more than once.

He's been there since early 2007, when he was charged in a DUI crash that killed his female passenger. Poulin should have been at the jail only a short time, but he's filed 15 court motions for continuances, which have delayed his trial.

He's also filed six lawsuits against the jail. All the previous lawsuits have been dismissed except one in which he demands access to newspapers and publications.

"We're not preventing him from receiving any material," said Commander Susan Jeter of the Brevard County jail.

"He just has to get a subscription and pay for it," she told CNN.

But magazines and newspapers are taking a back seat to Poulin's complaints in a new lawsuit that he has to watch the same movies again and again.

Jeter says that tough economic times have affected the jail's budget, just like they've affected most people's budgets. When the broadcast networks switched over to digital technology, the jail would have been forced to purchase new TV equipment. As a savings move, the jail decided to keep its old TVs and DVD players, thereby losing the ability to get TV channels.

"We decided to do things more constructively," said Jeter.

Jail officials restructured their program to offer more educational DVDs, as a way to help the inmates.

"We try to keep them informed, and provide something that could keep them from getting AIDS or hepatitis....instead of watching Jerry Springer," said Jeter.

Jeter says that historical DVDs are often followed by movies about the period. So, movies like "Saving Private Ryan, and "Black Hawk Down," have gotten some play.

But that doesn't appear to be good enough for Poulin. It seems he doesn't necessarily have to have his MTV, but he does crave just plain TV.

"The jail has the necessary equipment already to go ahead and give us regular TV," he said.

"We have a right to the media in jail," he said.

Jail officials say that in the time that live TV access has been gone from the jail, inmate-on-inmate violence is way down.

"There are families that don't even have cable TV . We can't bring it in for his (Poulin's) benefit, at the taxpayers' expense," said Jeter.

"He doesn't have to watch it," she said of the movies programming. "He can go in his room and close the door. He can read a book. No one forces him to watch."

"When you have someone here as long as him, he is going to see a rerun."