Can Watching The Same Movies Repeatedly Be Considered Torture?

"I hear those little kids screaming through my brain. All night long I can hear them. I can close my eyes, but I'm still going to hear them over and over and over."

It's a quote that could come from a war veteran or prisoner of war when asked to describe the horrors of their experience. An example of post traumatic stress syndrome, perhaps. War, however, has nothing to do with his particular quote. That quote is from a Florida inmate and he's referring to the kids in Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express. Insert laugh track here.

James Poulin, an inmate at the Brevard County Detention Center in Florida, has filed a lawsuit complaining that he's being tortured by the people running the jail because he's forced to watch the same movies over and over again. The jail doesn't have cable so they play a limited selection of DVDs, which include Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and The Polar Express, repeatedly. Poulin is trying to get the jail, which had to drop regular TV when the digital switchover happened, to introduce more programming. It's an interesting case. Do convicted criminals deserve to watch television? And can it actually be torture hearing the same movies all the time? CNN reported this story last month, but we hadn't heard about it until Cat Hicks tweeted about it Monday.

First, the funny. Poulin didn't complain about the sounds of the bullets or explosions in the war movies mentioned. Instead he decided to focus on the screaming of the dead eyed kids in The Polar Express. Once can only imagine how they haunt his dreams.

He likened the repetition of the films to "Chinese water torture" and believes that inmates have a "right to the media in jail." And while, technically, they don't, the courts are listening to his case. In fact, Poulin, who is in jail for killing a woman while driving intoxicated, has filed six separate lawsuits against the jail prior to this one. All have been dismissed except one in which he fought for his right to magazines and newspapers. They ruled that if he paid for them, he could get them.

In this case, according to the jail, they don't think the taxpayers should be forced to pay for cable when many people who aren't in jail don't have or can't afford cable. In addition to the movies, they play educational DVDs and inmates aren't forced to watch anything. They can sit in their cells.

Sometimes, loud, repetitive music has been used to disorient and annoy enemies so there might be some vague precedent for calling repeated media exposure 'torture.' (There isn't likely a legal precedent, however.) But there hasn't been any update since it broke.

Here's the CNN video of the story:

What do you think? Is being forced to watch or hear the same movies on repeat torture? Should inmates even have the right to watch anything or should they be happy with what they have? And finally, what are some other movies that we might want to send to the jail that would be even more torturous and hilarious?