How Do You Keep Busy In Prison?

How Do You Keep Busy In Prison?

By Richard McDonald

While you’re in prison, you’ll want to keep busy. Depending on the prison you’re assigned to, there are different ways that you can stay occupied.


Will you be able to use the computer while you’re in prison?

Yes. In federal prisons, there are two types of libraries that you can use. The first is the law library. The law library does not have actual books. Instead, it has various computers with law databases stored on them. These computers do not have internet access. You can look up caselaw and different terms used in criminal law. There are also  typewriters available to use. This is where you can write briefs and motions. 


Will you be able to read books while you’re in prison?

The second type of library in a prison is the general library. It’s stocked with books, newspapers and DVD players. The regular library is usually small. There are not thousands of books to choose from, but a few hundred.

Can you receive books from outside the prison?

There is the option to supplement your reading with hardcover books and newspapers. They need to be mailed to you by the publisher or distributor. Newspapers are a very hot item in prison. Prisoners crave to know what is going on in the outside world.

There is an option for softcover books as well. You can order softcover books to be mailed directly to you by friends and family. They must be mailed in a padded envelope. Boxes not shipped directly from the publisher will be returned. Amazon is the most popular distributor for both softcover and hardcover books.

Image courtesy of demaerre via Getty Images on iStock.

Can you listen to music while you’re in prison?

Yes.  You may purchase personal radios and headsets from the commissary. The radios feature AM/FM access and cost around $20. Headsets are available in either earbuds or over-the-ear options. They cost anywhere from $12 to $35.

To listen to a television, you will need a radio or headset. The televisions are muted in most areas. You can also buy  a MP3 player for around $90. You can download music onto the device. Songs cost about $1.35 each. You can download music to the device via your computer and commissary account. The song selection is quite extensive.


Access to music in prison was important to me. Listening to my music was extremely relaxing. I walked between six and seven miles per day. And it was so therapeutic to listen to my favorite music while exercising. MP3 devices are also used for more than just listening to music. You can follow local news and weather and watch TV with your MP3 player.

Can you become a volunteer while you’re in prison?

Yes. If you find yourself feeling stir crazy, there are options other than music and books. If your leisure time exceeds your recreational interests and work assignments, then you can volunteer. Volunteering will also provide some social contact with other incarcerated people.

You can volunteer to teach, assist or participate in various programs. You can choose the programs that interest you most. The recreation department may be looking for umpires and referees. The leather shop and hobby departments are other great options. You can make bracelets, backpacks and other items.

Volunteering with the prison chaplain is another area of opportunity to keep yourself busy. There is no shortage of opportunities to volunteer in some capacity. 

The Takeaway:

There are several different ways to stay busy while in prison. Whether it’s reading, listening to music or volunteering, you’ll find a way to occupy your time.

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