Cassette tapes are big business in prison

Over at BB Gadgets, John Brownlee riffs on an article about Pack Central, a company that sells popular recordings on cassette. The target market is prison inmates. From BB Gadgets:
...Who is buying (owner Bob) Paris' cassettes? America's 2.3 million prisoners. Which brings us to the second advantage of tape over compact disc: a tape can't be broken apart and used as a shiv. Prisoners are allowed to have them. 60% of Paris' business is in cassette tapes.

Paris' excited conclusion: "[By selling cassette tapes] I have dodged every conventional bullet that has hit most music retailers," Paris says. "I don't have to worry about downloading, legal or illegally. The beauty of it is that prisoners don't have Internet access and never will."
Cassettes still a multi-million dollar industry... in prison (BB Gadgets)

Previously on BB and BBG:
Ram's head made from cassette tapes
Skull made from melted rawk cassette tapes


  1. Paris who? Paris Hilton? That’s what I assumed until I read “Paris’ excited conclusion”. Doesn’t sound like anything Paris Hilton could possibly string together.

  2. pollyannacowgirl @1, Sorry! I should have ID’d him on first mention. Fixed! Thanks!

  3. I wonder if his prices are marked up the way other prison services and products (like long distance collect phone calls) are.

  4. how do you crystallize speed, coke and heroin and stablize it enough to stamp cassette “plastic” tape carcasses?

  5. Yeah, i don;t know what they are thinking letting cassette tapes in Prison. That’s the perfect medium (plastic). All that needs to be done is to melt it down and shape it with your lighter. I saw a clip about that on MSNBC.

  6. I saw a guy on Extended Stay: San Quentin melt a coffee cup lid into a hard little blunt stick for a weapon.

  7. Actually cassette tapes are still alive and well where many discarded technologies find a home: the pyschedelic/drone/noise/experimental music world. For one they are fairly cheap to produce, easy to dub at home, have an appealing “objecthood” that is conducive to elaborate handmade packaging, and sound great. There are tons of homebrew labels devoted solely to music on tape here and abroad, and there are hundreds that include tapes along with vinyl and CD-Rs, most of which are wildly successful by the relatively humble standards of the scene.

  8. and you can use the motor from a cassette player to make a crude tattoo machine –great for your jailhouse ink

  9. Waitaminute…are these tapes copied and traded illegaly? I say we put these ‘file traders’ in prison.

    Oh wait…

  10. That coffee cup lid in the San Quentin program on MSNBC turned into a very sharp, nasty weapon… my boyfriend is an ex-prison warden, and while he won’t tell me any really scary stories, he did say that just about ANYTHING can be made into a weapon. Shards of plastic cassette tapes? Weapons. I’ll have to ask him about this….

  11. The plastic used in cassettes is such low-density that you’d be hard-pressed to make an effective weapon out of it. That is, a weapon that would do more than simply anger your victim and earn you an adrenaline-fueled beating.

    The tape is far too weak to strangle someone with, and the wheels? Maybe you could flick them at somebody.

    Modern cassettes aren’t even held together with screws anymore.

  12. minced tape puffed into a breaker panel ought to short out the door and security electromagnetic controls. Prolly just lock you in though.

  13. You could make a little lasso out of the magnetic tape and use it to snag the keys hanging on the nail in the wall.

  14. Great – someone else turning a buck off of incarceration. We didn’t have enough of those already.

  15. @22 Yep, that’s how I got out of Calico. You wouldn’t believe how I got my station wagon back.

  16. “a tape can’t be broken apart and used as a shiv”.
    Yes, but the tape can be unravelled, braided and used as a garrotte…

  17. “The beauty of it is that prisoners don’t have Internet access and never will.”

    …what? I swear I’ve heard before that they have net in a lot of prisons.

  18. For the second quarter of fiscal 2008, Pack Central reported revenues of 57,300 packs of smokes, 316 blue bags, and four punks, up from 32,000 packs of smokes and 112 blue bags in the corresponding quarter a year earlier.

  19. My band has released an 11 track purple cassette tape. That’s our only release. It came out in January 2008. We haven’t hit up the prison market, but let’s just say we’d be proud if one of our brothers behind bars got a listen.

    Go technology go, just… don’t forget useful, durable stuff from the past.

    For the interested, the band is here:

    The cassette/record label is here:

  20. You can TOO shank a guy with a piece of cassette tape. What these prisoners need is Michael Winslow to come in and just imitate every musical instrument any song incorporates all at once. Last time I checked, it was damned near impossible to make a shiv out of THAT guy.

  21. I was in prison and actually bought several tapes from Pack Central. While they probably could be made into weapons, they’re too expensive. No one’s that stupid. Also, they are are no the prisoner’s property list and if they disapear it could mean going to the hole. No reason to waste something that costs money which is in short supply when a person could make a weapon out of just about anything.

  22. Pack Central is a good company, but they went out of business because the Federal Bureau Of Prison put a ban on cassette tape nation wide.

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