What helps make prison life tolerable?
It's different for different individuals. For me two man cell as opposed to open bay dormitory is a big plus. Having outside support is beneficial. Having money in canteen account along with a hustle is nice. Some States wont allow some of the items listed below (the facility I am writing about now no longer allows most). These items made for a way to occupy my free time. I also noticed that institutions that permits these items had a lower rate of rule violation's as these items, as I called them are good "babysitters." The items I listed below I was able to purchase through inmate canteen and or mail order from vendors approved by the institution.
Flat screen TV (up to 26 inch), D.V.D. Player, MP3 (up to 32 gig), insulated coffee mug (up to 32oz) personal hygiene item's as opposed to the low quality issued by institution. Personal clothing (providing it didn't appear close to security uniforms). Small lunch box size insulated cooler.
The institution provided : TV in day room, large cooler of ice cubes as needed, one or two microwave pending dormitory size. Incoming phone line, (sign up sheet weekly for you to sign for spacific times so family / friends could call in).
The Administrations philosophy was the institution was to keep the criminal off the street. That loss of freedom was the punishment. It was not the facilities responsibility to punish more than that unless it was an in house violation.
You will not find the above conditions of confinement in the jurisdiction I mention above as these anamities have been revoked by the state dept. of Corruption.