BY JOHN A. TORRES Florida Today:http://www.tcpalm.com
Inmate claims movies in jail are 'torture'
With no TV, inmates are watching such movies as 'Black Hawk Down'' and 'Pearl Harbor'' over and over, inmate says
Click to view image: 'James Poulin'
BREVARD COUNTY — Inmates in a state prison or county jail often write letters to the media insisting on their innocence, claiming they have been wronged by authorities and lawyers or abused while incarcerated.
But James Poulin, jailed almost four years awaiting trial for driving-under-the-influence manslaughter, complains of "torture" at the Brevard County Detention Center: He says inmates are forced to watch the same movies over and over and it is taking a toll.
Poulin, 45, blames Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker.
"Parker gathered up a bunch of old (movies) he had laying around and played them over and over for the next year," Poulin wrote to Florida Today. "I have seen 'Black Hawk Down,' 'Pearl Harbor,' 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Battle Front' hundreds of times each, sometimes two or three times a day. . . .
"Like the old Chinese water torture, the inescapable sounds of these movies over and over works on nerves and psyche."
The jail's administrator, Cmdr. Susan Jeter, said no inmates are forced to watch the movies.
"The jail provides a voluntary, video-programmed educational opportunity for the inmates, she said. "This program is available in the dayroom area. . . . They can go to their cells and read a book if they so choose."
Jeter said showing movies -- instead of network or cable-television programming -- has resulted in "fewer aggression issues."
Poulin, however, said many of the films are violent and damaging psychologically.
Part of the issue is the length of time Poulin has been in the jail. The average stay is 25 days, and he has spent almost 1,400 days.
Poulin was arrested by Palm Bay police in January 2007 for allegedly driving and crashing his car while intoxicated, an accident that killed his female passenger.
There have been 14 motions for continuances in his case and six federal lawsuits against the jail, all of which have been dismissed.
The sheriff said Poulin's manslaughter case should have been resolved.
"Defending frivolous lawsuits such as those alleged by this inmate are not only expensive, but are a distraction to those trying to operate a safe and orderly facility," Parker said. "This serves as just one more example that there needs to be stronger consequences to those who waste the court's time and the precious resources of the taxpayer.
"Sadly, these wasteful expenses have resulted from an inmate whose case should have been dealt with long ago."
No more TV
Poulin said the "torture" began when the jail did not switch over from analog to digital television, limiting the viewing options.
Jeter said the initial move away from network television had to do with the cost of going digital.
"This would require the purchase of new TVs that receive the digital signal and cable to have a signal brought in to view it, both expensive to maintain," she said. "Keep in mind TV is not a requirement to have for the inmates, and more and more jails are going to a programmed educational format."
The movies, Jeter said, generally fit a theme. For example, after a talk by retired U.S. Army Col. Danny McKnight, the jail showed "Black Hawk Down," which dramatized McKnight's real-life heroics.
"We try to include inspirational, educational and motivational information," she said, giving other examples: "Job Interviews Simplified," "Hepatitis," "Mount Rushmore," "Planet Earth" and "Heart of Africa."
While Poulin claims "torture," Palm Bay Police Maj. John Blackledge said Poulin is the one causing pain to others. He said the victims in Poulin's lawsuits and continuances are the family of the woman who died, including her child.
"He's dragging out continuances, hoping witnesses grow weary, they move away, police retire," he said. "Defense strategy appears to drag cases out as long as possible so justice is undone."
Assistant Public Defender Randy Moore, whose office represents Poulin, said the continuances are a strategy.
"It's called trial preparation," he said, adding that Poulin represented himself for a period of time and filed several continuances on his own.
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